The group of hikers who encountered a black bear in a New Jersey nature preserve last month before one of them was attacked and killed had been warned about the bear by another pair of hikers, police say.
West Milford police had been looking to speak with the couple after the deadly bear attack on 22-year-old Darsh Patel, a Rutgers student, on Sept. 21.
The couple told police they were hiking for several hours when the woman noticed the 300-pound black bear following them. The bear stayed about 30 to 40 yards away and followed them for about 10 minutes.
The couple then met Patel and his friends on the trail and told them about the bear and warned them not to proceed, police said.
The group apparently decided to continue on their original path, and a short time later, they saw the bear, police said. Several of the hikers took pictures with their cellphones from what they felt was a safe distance -- until the bear began to advance on them.
The men decided to turn back and as they walked, the bear followed and quickly closed the distance on them, police said. Both the hikers and the bear sped up and eventually started running.
The group of friends ran for several minutes before they got separated. They eventually regrouped and noticed Patel was missing.
Recordings of the 911 calls after the bear attack captured Patel's friends' panic.
A necropsy conducted on the bear found it did not have rabies, according to a report released by the DEP Tuesday. Test results also found it had bits of human tissue, hair and clothing in its stomach.
An incident report filed by DEP officers also revealed that Patel's pants, phone and socks were found near his body, stuck to the briars. The cellphone had a puncture mark on the front screen.
The bear would not leave the area, even after officers tried to scare it away by making loud noises and throwing sticks and stones, and it eventually was killed with two rifle blasts. Authorities said it was 4 years old.
State and local officials have stressed that bear attacks are rare even in a region of the state that may have as many as 2,400 bruins in its dense forests. They said the attack was the first fatal bear-human encounter on record in New Jersey.
Rutgers said in a statement that Patel was a senior in the School of Arts and Sciences majoring in information technology and informatics. Patel's family has asked for privacy.