West Milford Police Department said five young adults went for a hike on the last Sunday of summer, but one of them, a 22-year-old man, was mauled to death by a black bear.
The surviving hikers told investigators they encountered the bear in the woods and it began to follow them.
They grew frightened and ran. Hiker Darsh Patel may have twisted his ankle and fallen. He became separated from the others.
When the survivors got to safety, they called police.
West Milford Police Department search and rescue found Patel dead, a black bear nearby. Police said the bear was euthanized.
"It's pretty scary," Harvey Miller, who is a Bloomingdale Resident, said. "You got a lot of kids and stuff, school right here."
Robert Eckert said he was shocked to hear what happened behind his home in the Apshawa Preserve in northern Passaic County of New Jersey.
"Don't entice them," Robert Eckert said. "Most of the time they're skittish, they'll just run away."
Residents in this heavily wooded corner of Passaic said encounters with black bears are a constant in spring summer and fall.
"From what I'm told there's been very few bear attacks and I don't think there's ever been a fatality from what I was told," Ed Smith, of West Milford, said.
But most of the only thing a bear usually attacks is an unsecured garbage can.
"I avoid them and they're usually very skittish," Smith said. "As soon as they see a human they're gone. They're very fast, run probably 35 mph."
Signs at the preserve parking lot mention nothing about potential bear encounters.
In a statement, the mayor of West Milford said the entire circumstances of the deadly encounter will be reviewed.
A long-planned seminar on how to coexist peacefully with black bears was planned for Monday night at the township building in West Milford.