Independent News and Media

Hiker took photo of black bear moments before it killed him

THIS photograph is one of the last taken by a tragic hiker, who was mauled to death by this same bear just moments later.

Darsh Patel, 22, used his phone to take a series of images of the black bear while hiking with four friends in the Apshawa Preserve, 45 miles north-west of New York, in September.

From a distance of about 100ft, the group believed they were far enough away from the animal to be safe - but the 21 stone male bear subsequently pursued them and attacked Patel.

Police in West Milford, New Jersey, released five photos taken by the Rutgers University student, following an Open Public Records Act request filed by NJ Advance Media.

Patel's phone had been recovered after the discovery of his body and reportedly bore a puncture mark from the bear's teeth.

Officers also found and shot the bear.

West Milford police and the state Environmental Protection Department said last month that the bear did not seem interested in food and exhibited "stalking type behaviour".

While black bears are common in New Jersey and have been sighted in all of the state's 21 counties, attacks on humans are "definitely rare" according to Lawrence Hajna, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection.

A 2012 report published by the department states that there are around 3,000 black bears in New Jersey - one of the highest black bear densities in the nation.

No one had been killed by a black bear in New Jersey since 1852, according to a 2010 report on black bears by the New Jersey Fish and Game Council.