WEST MILFORD, N.J., Nov. 26 (UPI) -- A college student who became New Jersey's first known victim of a fatal bear attack snapped five photographs of the animal, police said.
West Milford police released the photos, taken with Darsh Patel's cellphone, in response to an Open Public Records Act request by New Jersey Advance Media. Another member of the hiking group took a sixth photo.
Patel, 22, a student at Rutgers University, was hiking with a group of friends in Apshawa Preserve in West Milford in September when they came upon the bear about 300 feet away. When the animal got within 15 feet, the five hikers spllit up, running in different directions.
A state Fish and Wildlife report said the group had been warned about the bear by a couple they encountered a short time before who said the bear had been following them. But Patel and his friends continued down the trail because they hoped to see the animal.
"They stopped and took photographs of the bear with their cell phones and the bear began walking towards them," the report said.
Patel's friends said they last saw him scrambling up some rocks. He had lost a shoe and the bear was closing in.
They called 911. Police found his body about four hours later.
A bear shot by police had human remains in its stomach and blood and flesh under its claws. That bear was found near the body, and was behaving aggressively, although it was not immediately clear if it was the same bear that killed Patel.
Bears had been wiped out in New Jersey, but the population has rebounded to about 2,500 from animals crossing into the state from New York and Pennsylvania.
There were no fatal attacks on record in New Jersey, although about 60 people have been killed by bears in the United States in a century. With a growing bear population spreading to new areas in the state and more people living in formerly rural areas, nuisance encounters have become increasingly common.