The friends who got separated from a Rutgers student while hiking in a New Jersey nature preserve called 911 in a panic, telling the dispatcher they had just been chased by a black bear and couldn't locate their friend, who was later found dead.
Police recordings released Friday capture the anxiety after the five friends from Edison got separated in the Apshawa Preserve Sunday.
"Hey, hello, I'm on Macopin Road, it's 81 Macopin Rd., I believe I'm in West Milford or somewhere around there," said a friend in the first 911 call. "We were hiking and we saw a bear, and we all started running and it started chasing us."
"Two of us are OK, one other person (unintelligible), but two are really close, and I'm scared out of my mind for them. I want to go back, but I'm hurt and I don't know what to do," the caller said.
The unidentified friend said he had scraped his leg and was more worried about his friends.
"Can anyone get here anytime really soon, please?" he said.
The dispatcher warned the caller it could take police some time to get to them if they were on a trail.
"No, no, no, but we ran one way for about two minutes, and we got onto a neighborhood," the caller said. We're at 81 Macopin Road, and we can go right into it from there."
The call was transferred to a dispatcher in nearby Bloomingdale before the call was kicked back to the first dispatcher.
"Hey, what's up, I just got told to call you 'cause if I'm not in Bloomingdale -- I need someone immediately to 581 Macopin Rd.," he said.
"Oh, 581 Macopin," the dispatcher said.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm sorry, I read that wrong. Anyway, like, do you know how long it will take or anything of that nature?" said the caller.
The dispatcher assured him it "shouldn't be too long."
A search team found the body of Darsh Patel, 22, a short time after they arrived. Officials said Patel had bite and claw marks on his body that indicated he'd been attacked by the 299-pound black bear.
The bear was found 30 to 40 yards from Patel and euthanized at the scene, officials said. Authorities said it was 4 years old.
The New Jersey Department of Fish, Game and Wildlife, which is handling the necropsy of the bear to confirm that the animal killed Patel, and why, said Friday their examination wasn't yet complete.
It was the first fatal bear attack ever in New Jersey.
Kelcey Burguess, a black bear biologist with the department, has said it's possible the bear was diseased or rabid, but it's "very rare" for a bear to have rabies. It's more likely the bear was looking for food, he said.
The hikers told authorities the bear appeared to be following them; they were all carrying granola bars and water. The number of acorns in the woods where the bear was is far lower than it should be at this time of year, Burguess said. The bear was also stalking the body when police arrived, and Burguess said it's common for black bears to guard their food sources.
The Apshawa Preserve is a 576-acre natural area used for hiking and bird watching.
Rutgers said in a statement that Patel was a senior in the School of Arts and Sciences majoring in information technology and informatics. Patel's family asked for privacy.