A 22-year-old Rutgers University student became the first person to be killed by a bear in New Jersey since 1852 after an attack Sunday afternoon just a few dozen miles west of Manhattan. Police say Darsh Patel was hiking with four friends in the Apshawa Preserve when they encountered the black bear, the West Milford Messenger reports. The friends scattered when the bear started following them and they called police when they couldn't find Patel after they regrouped. Police say they found the 300-pound bear "lingering" near his body and they killed it with two blasts from a rifle after the search-and-rescue team was unable to scare it away, reports the New York Daily News.
But while the student from Edison, NJ, is the first bear fatality in the state in more than 150 years, there have been 146 dangerous encounters with bears recorded in New Jersey so far this year, up from 99 last year. A state Department of Environmental Protection spokesman tells the New York Times that the bear population is "out of control" in the north of the state. "People confuse black bears with grizzly bears, and black bears are not generally as aggressive," the spokesman says. "But they are still wild animals that need to be treated with respect and distance." (Read more New Jersey stories.)