US & Canada

Bear kills New Jersey student in nature preserve

A black bear in Yellowstone Park, Wyoming Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Black bears like this one in Wyoming are populous in New Jersey forests

A New Jersey university student was killed after being mauled by a black bear while hiking, in what officials called an extremely rare attack.

Darsh Patel, 22, and four friends encountered the bear on Sunday inside the Apshawa Preserve, about 40 miles (64km) north-west of New York City.

The bear was circling Patel when officials found the student's body. Police killed the bear at the scene.

As many as 2,400 bears live in the forests of northern New Jersey.

The state has one of the highest black-bear densities in the nation but no human has been killed by a bear since 1852, Reuters news agency reports.

Any bear attacks on humans are unusual, experts say.

"It is definitely rare," said Lawrence Hajna, the state's environmental protection department spokesman.

Patel and his friends were hiking in the preserve on Sunday when they saw the bear following them. The group split up but when they regrouped, Patel was missing.

His friends called the police and his body was found two hours later. West Milford Police Chief Timothy Storbeck said the approximately 300 pound (136kg) male bear was about 40 yards (37m) from the body and would not leave when officers tried to scare it away.

In a statement, Rutgers University, which Patel attended, confirmed he was a final year student of information technology.

"As we grieve over his tragic passing, please know that our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and loved ones, and to all his friends and fellow students at Rutgers," the university's chancellor, Richard Edwards, said.

Kelcey Burguess, leader of the state's black bear project, said the bear could have been predisposed to attack but more likely was looking for food, as wildlife officials believe there is a shortage of acorns and berries.

Officials do not believe the hikers provoked the bear but they may have showed their inexperience when they decided to run instead of moving slowly while avoiding eye contact with the animal.

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