Hiker took cell phone photos of bear before fatal New Jersey mauling

(Reuters) - A hiker who was mauled to death by a black bear in September took photos of the lumbering animal just before the fatal attack in a heavily wooded area of northern New Jersey, police said Wednesday. Authorities in West Milford have released the photos taken from the cell phone of Darsh Patel, 22, of Edison, New Jersey, just before what experts said was a rare attack on a human by a black bear. Patel's phone was found in the woods where he was hiking with four friends in the Apshawa Preserve, about 40 miles northwest of New York City, with a bite mark through it, police said. The photos show the 300-pound bear moving toward Patel before the mauling. The bear had begun to follow the group of hikers and they scattered. Four of them regrouped, but Patel was missing, according to a police statement released in September. His body was found about two hours later. The bear was located and killed, police said. Black bear attacks on humans are extremely rare, according to the North American Bear Center. There are an estimated 750,000 black bears across North America, the center said. (Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere in Seattle; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Mohammad Zargham)