VERNON -- Police say it was an "attack." At this point, New Jersey wildlife officials say, it was an "incident."

Either way, Henry Rouwendal, who was nursing a head injury, dislocated shoulder and other injuries at his Vernon home last night, says his run-in with a hungry black bear was "a pretty wild ordeal."

"I'm still hurting pretty badly. My face is all messed up. It looks like I've been in a boxing match," said the 52-year-old electrical engineer. "I'm just lucky to be talking to you now."

Rouwendal said he was in his driveway at about 10:30 last Friday night, loading the back of his sport utility vehicle for a business trip to New Hampshire.

Along with his bags was an Italian hoagie, loaded with salami and other meats, lettuce, onions and tomatoes.

Suddenly, Rouwendal said, something hit him from behind.

"It blind-sided me. I was on the ground and I was thinking, 'What the hell just hit me?'" said Rouwendal, who also suffered a large cut on his left temple and several deep bruises on his knee, elbow and buttocks.

Rouwendal said was knocked, face-first to the ground. When he rolled over, the bear was standing over him and then grabbed the sandwich.

"I kicked him three times in the snout and one time in the throat. I think the one in the throat got him," Rouwendal said, adding the bear started to run toward the rear of his home on Panorama Drive in the Lake Panorama section of Vernon.

Rouwendal said he lay on the ground for about an hour before he made it back inside his house. He woke up his wife, Kathleen, a nurse, who tended to his wounds.

Vernon police believe the bear was a 300- to 400-pound female with two cubs that had been spotted several times in the area.

"It could have been a lot worse. The bear could have done more than just knock him down," police Lt. Daniel Zill said.

Rouwendal waited until Saturday to call police, who said the "attack" was first of its kind in more than 25 years in the Sussex County township, which normally has a large number of bear sightings and reports of bruins killing livestock, busting into homes and acting aggressively.

The DEP, which has set a trap for the errant bruin on Rouwendal's property, said authorities have yet to classify the incident as an attack.

"At this point, it just doesn't seem we will label this as an attack on a person. ... He has no bruises, claw marks or scratches or even a ripped shirt that indicates it was a purposeful attack by the bear," said Lawrence Herrighty, deputy director of the DEP's Division of Fish and Wildlife.

Herrighty said it appears the bear went for the sandwich and not Rouwendal.

According to the state Department of Environmental Protection, bear "incidents" are growing in the northwest corner of the state.

Between Jan. 1 and May 20 of this year, the DEP received 693 calls about bears. During the same period last year, it received 591. The reports show 71 of the calls this year involved livestock deaths, home break-ins and aggressive behavior compared to 62 last year.

State authorities and local police also have killed seven aggressive bears this year, the same number as last year, according to the DEP.

Classifying bear conflicts with humans has become controversial in New Jersey. Two hunts were held, in 2003 and 2005, to control state's growing bear population, but opposition from animal rights activists prompted Gov. Jon Corzine to end the hunts when he took office in 2006. Now, bears are killed only by farmers with special permits and by police or wildlife authorities when they engage in dangerous behavior, such as home break-ins, attacking humans and killing livestock.

After Friday's incident, the state set a culvert trap - a large metal cylinder with a heavy gated door that drops when a bear walks inside - on Rouwendal's property. Rouwendal said the bruin was nearly captured Tuesday night, but it escaped the trap and fled into the woods.

Despite his injuries, Rouwendal said he's trying to remain upbeat about the attack.

"Maybe I'll fill that trap with some sub sandwiches," he said jokingly, adding that he'll have the deli hold the lettuce, onions and tomatoes, which the bear left behind.