A black bear killed a 22-year-old student as he hiked with four of his friends through a densely wooded area of the US state of New Jersey, police confirmed on Monday.
Darsh Patel, a Rutgers University student from Edison, New Jersey, and his friends came face to face with the bear on Sunday afternoon in the Apshawa Preserve around 40 miles northwest of New York City, according to the West Milford Township police department.
The powerful creature followed the hikers, causing them to scatter in fear, the police said in a statement.
When the four of them safely regrouped, they realised Patel was missing and phoned the police. Around two hours later, officers found and shot dead the four-year-old male bear, which weighed around 136kg (300lbs), as it guarded Patel's dead body, CBS New York reported.
"There was a bear that was circling the area that would not leave the victim. The search and rescue team that had been back there was clapping their hands, trying to make noises…trying to scare it off, but it never really left," West Milford Police Chief Tim Storbeck said.
"It just kept lingering, it kept trying to circle back around, so at that time is when the officer shot."
In a statement, the mayor of West Milford said the entire circumstances of the deadly encounter will be reviewed.
Larry Ragonese, of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, told the broadcaster that the bear will undergo a full necropsy to determine what may have prompted it to become aggressive.
Patel was in his final year at Rutgers University, where he had majored in information technology and informatics.
“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,” Rutgers Chancellor Dr Richard L. Edwards said in a statement.
While black bears are common in New Jersey and have been sighted in all of the state 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.
In 2002, a bear killed a 5-month-old girl in New York State after knocking her out of a stroller and dragging her into the woods of the Catskills Mountains.
Typically, black bears are not aggressive and tend to flee from humans, according to the New Jersey DEP website.
Additional reporting by ReutersReuse content