Darsh Patel, a 22-year-old Rutgers University student, was out on a walk in the West Milford Apshawa Preserve with four pals when he met an unexpected and gruesome conclusion. Yet, right before he was slain, Patel took a few photos in which he caught his attacker.
As the New Jersey resident and his pals started their walk through the nature preserve, the group of five saw a guy and a woman exiting the park who informed them that a bear was aggressively pursuing them. According to officials, the couple persuaded the five companions to turn back. Sadly, they did not pay attention, and failing to heed the warning would prove disastrous for one of them.
The gang resumed their walk, ultimately coming upon the bear. Darsh Patel decided to take a few shots of the lumbering, 300-pound black bear, which is visible on all fours in the series of images eventually provided by the West Milford Police Department after NJ Advance Media filed an Open Public Records Act request.
Patel used his mobile phone to photograph the animal as it approached the group from a distance of roughly 100 feet. The party started to move away after snapping a few photographs, but the bear followed. The unthinkable occurred when Patel was violently mauled, bitten, assaulted, and murdered by the bear he had just photographed.
When the black bear closed the distance and reached within about 15 feet of the group, they broke up and ran in various directions, according to the police. Patel, who had lost his shoe, was last seen alive climbing a rock, screaming for the others to keep going as the bear approached. His four pals were able to flee and ultimately dialed 911.
Patel was discovered dead four hours later by rescue services, with the bear surrounding his corpse. Larry Ragonese, a spokesperson for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, stated during a news conference after the assault that police subsequently shot and killed the animal. Before the fatal blow was given to the bear’s jaw, it was hit in the shoulder.
Human remnants, including human hair, meat, and clothes, were discovered in the bear’s stomach and oesophagus. Human blood and tissue were also discovered beneath its claws. The East Stroudsburg University laboratory in Pennsylvania found that 61 percent of the contents of the bear’s oesophagus were human meat, whereas the necropsy indicated that just 1 percent of the bear’s stomach contained animal flesh.
Of course, investigators retrieved Patel’s mobile phone at the site, which had not only photographs of the bear but also a puncture from the creature’s jaws. The group did not agitate the bear, and subsequent test results only deepen the mystery surrounding the incident by showing that the bear was not hungry or ill.
Although Patel’s death was the first recorded incidence of a bear killing a human in New Jersey, experts estimate that 60 similar deadly assaults have happened in North America over the previous century. It should also be mentioned that, despite becoming almost extinct in New Jersey by the 1960s, black bears have now recovered to a population of over 2,500.
What a startling reminder that, although nature is tremendously beautiful, it is also quite dangerous. While we should not avoid an adventure due to this, we should be prepared and listen to warnings when they are given.
The National Park Service gave the following safety guidelines for interactions with black bears:
*Maintain vigilance and avoid approaching the bear.
*If you go too near, the bear may respond angrily by making loud sounds, charging at you, or slapping the ground.
*Don’t run; instead, back away carefully, keeping an eye on the bear at all times.
*If a bear approaches you without vocalizing or slapping its paws, adjust your course.
*If the bear comes too near, yell or scream at it. If you have companions, act as a group.
We are also reminded that no photograph is worth one’s life. Darsh Patel may still be alive today if the gang hadn’t stopped to take those shots. Even if he didn’t have the images, he’d have the memory of the occasion and, more crucially, of his life.