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The West Milford Fatal Bear Attack, September 21, 2014

On September 21, 2014, a fatal predatory black bear attack occurred in West Milford, Passaic County, resulting in the death of a 22-year old male. It is the first documented bear fatality in New Jersey's history.

Though extremely rare, such fatal predatory attacks have and do occur throughout black bear habitat in North America, including New York, Virginia, and other East Coast states. Predatory attacks can occur with little or no warning, unlike the actions of a bear that considers a person too close or threatening and may signal its unease by emitting a series of threatening huffs or popping sounds by snapping its jaws and/or swatting the ground.

Information on the fatal bear attack can be found in the documents linked below.

The public is advised that this tragic event is far from the typical of usual bear/human interaction that occurs in New Jersey. While most bears will avoid people entirely if aware of their presence, the high bear density in New Jersey (particularly in the northern counties) and widespread human development and density, means people often come into contact with bears. Knowing what to do in an encounter and to avoid encounters in the first place, can ensure that people and bears can better co-exist in New Jersey.

Bear Safety Tips

Avoid Attracting Bears

Below are links to public documents pertaining to this tragic event.

NJDEP Hotline Incident Report (pdf, 85kb)
NJDFW Bureau of Law Enforcement Report, CO Driscoll (pdf, 212kb)
NJDFW Bureau of Law Enforcement Report, Lt. Sutton (pdf, 235kb)

Statement of "Hiker 1" (pdf, 135kb)
Statement of "Hiker 2" (pdf, 168kb)

NJ Dept. of Agriculture Necropsy Final Report (pdf, 25kb)
East Stroudsburg University Necropsy Report (pdf, 2.5mb)
East Stroudsburg University DNA Profile Report (pdf, 38kb)

Letter from DFW Director Chanda to WMPD Chief Storbeck, 10-24-14 (pdf, 115kb)

Bear Facts - Black Bears in New Jersey

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Department of Environmental Protection
P.O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: November 10, 2014