In an eerie development, the West Milford Police Department has released five photos taken by Darsh Patel—the 22-year-old Rutgers student who was killed by a black bear on September 21 while he was hiking with friends in New Jersey’s Apshawa Preserve—just minutes before his death. One of the pictures shows the 300-pound bear approaching from a distance of about 100 feet. It was taken with Patel’s cell phone, which was recovered with a puncture mark from the bear’s teeth, according to NJ Advance Media.
In the weeks following the man’s death, authorities learned that the same bear aggressively pursued another pair of hikers, who actually warned Patel and his friends on the trail as they were leaving the preserve. The group decided to continue on anyway, but later noticed the bear following them from about 300 feet away. When it closed in to 15 feet, they split up, and the animal chased Patel, who lost a shoe at some point. He was last seen scrambling up a rock face with the bear right behind him.
His friends regrouped at a safe distance and called 911. Four hours later, emergency responders located Patel’s body, which the bear appeared to be guarding, as if it was a food source. An officer put the animal down with a shotgun. Patel’s autopsy confirmed that he was mauled to death by the bear, and human remains were found in the bear’s stomach and esophagus.
The mauling was the first fatal bear attack in New Jersey since 1852, and it has raised questions about how to manage the growing bear population. The state has plans to reevaluate its hunting regulations after the conclusion of its fifth annual bear season this December, NJ.com reported in October.
Photo: West Milford Police Department