Fatal New Jersey Bear Attack Update
Lab reports, and interviews with the people involved, reveal that the recent New Jersey fatal black bear attack on a college student was clearly predatory in nature.
On September 21, Darsh Patel, 22, was attacked and killed by a 300-lb. male black bear while hiking with four friends in forested Apshawa Nature Preserve in West Milford, New Jersey. Police shot the bear when it refused to leave Patel’s body, behavior indicative of a bear guarding its kill. The bear was circling Patel’s lifeless body and behaving aggressively toward search and rescue team members. Incident reports obtained through a public records request indicate the bear squared off with the search party for about 30 minutes before it was shot. The necropsy revealed that the bear was not malnourished or diseased. The East Stroudsberg University laboratory in Pennsylvania found clothing, human hair, and flesh in the stomach of the bear; 61% of the contents in the bear’s esophagus was human flesh.

A black and red sneaker, believed to be Patel's, was found 20 yards north of the trail. Patel’s body was discovered approximately 15 yards below, in a grassy area of a ravine. It's unclear if Patel's sneaker fell off during the chase. Patel's pants, socks, and a cell phone with a puncture hole in it, were stuck in the briar bushes near the site of the body.

The bear had stalked two separate groups of hikers. West Milford Police Chief Timothy Storbeck said two other hikers, a man and woman, told police they were aggressively being followed by a black bear for about 10 minutes. The bear was about 30-40 yards away as they trekked, they said. The couple told the five college students that they were leaving the preserve because of the bear, and recommended that the friends not proceed along the trail. The five hikers ignored the couple’s advice and proceeded down the trail, Storbeck said.
Apshawa Preserve (credit: Tony Aiello/CBS 2)
They found the bear, and began taking pictures with their cell phones from what they believed was a safe distance. The bear followed them, closed the distance, and eventually chased the men, who began running, Storbeck said. The men ran from the bear for “several minutes” before being separated. West Milford police have said that the five hikers from Edison did not provoke the bear. When four of the men regrouped and were unable to find Patel, they called police, who located Patel’s body and the bear.
Bob Noonan,Freelance Writer, Editor, Publisher
Bob Noonan has published well over 1,000 articles in magazines ranging from Reader’s Digest to Down East, and numerous others. He has edited and published several outdoor magazines.