Grizzly Bear Shot and Killed By Hikers In Denali National Park and Preserve

A grizzly bear that emerged from a thicket and charged two backpackers in the backcountry of Denali National Park and Preserve was shot and killed by one of the two who was carrying a .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol, according to park officials.

The killing Friday is believed to be the first instance of a hiker killing a grizzly in the park's wilderness. The killing occurred in the original Mount McKinley National Park portion of the Denali, which was expanded by two-thirds in 1980.

Until February, when Congress changed the rules, it was illegal to carry a loaded firearm in that portion of Denali. While the rule change now allows hikers to carry firearms in all areas of Denali, it still is illegal to discharge them, park officials said.

Park officials did not speculate whether the killing was justified. This is believed to be the first instance of a visitor to a national park killing an animal with a firearm since the gun regulations were changed.

According to a release from the park, the two backpackers, a man and woman, were hiking in dense brush along the edge of Tattler Creek, which is at the west end of Igloo Canyon roughly 35 miles from the park headquarters.

"The man, who was in the lead, drew a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol when they heard a noise coming from the brush. When the bear emerged from the thicket and ran toward the other hiker, he fired approximately nine rounds in its general direction. The bear stopped, turned, and walked back into the brush, where it quickly disappeared from view," said the release.

The two then headed roughly 1.5 miles back to a road, where they encountered a park employee, who called in the incident and took the two backpackers to the Toklat Road Camp. A ranger there did a short preliminary interview with them at approximately 10:00 p.m. Because of the concern that a wounded bear was in the area, four backcountry units were immediately closed, and bus drivers were instructed to not drop off day hikers in the Igloo Canyon on Saturday.

"Early Saturday morning rangers and wildlife technicians flew to Toklat via helicopter to conduct a secondary interview with the two backpackers. Afterwards they flew over Tattler Creek and all of side tributaries, very low at times, to determine if there was an active, wounded bear," the park release said. "No bears were seen during the overflight, and late in the afternoon three rangers hiked into the site. The bear was found dead in a willow thicket approximately 100 feet from the pistol casings at approximately 6:00 p.m.

"The bear’s body was transported via helicopter to a landing site on the park road and brought back to headquarters on Sunday, where park wildlife biologists are assisting with the investigation of the bear carcass. The backcountry units have been reopened."

The case is still under investigation, and the names of the backpackers are not being released at this time. Park wildlife biologists and rangers are trying to determine if there was a justification for shooting the animal.

The estimated grizzly bear population in the park north of the Alaska Range north is 300-350 animals.

Comments

Its about time someone was allowed top defend themselves.
I hope this case does not degenerate into a get the hikers thing.
It seems that they don't give a crap about human life anymore.

Much remains to be learned from the circumstances around the shooting before definitive conclusions can be reached. Among the questions: How far from the hikers was the bear when it was shot? Were there cubs nearby? Was there a carcass nearby? Was the bear healthy?

Other points that can't be overlooked:

* Park officials can't recall any other instance of a hiker/backpacker killing a grizzly in this section of the park. Ever.

* Bears are known to make bluff charges. Was that the case in this instance?

Finally, the fact that gun rules in the parks just changed in February can't help but insert its ugly head into this story. More than a few folks (and Park Service personnel) have worried that some backcountry travelers who arm themselves will shoot first.

Interestingly, a trial just ended in Jackson, Wyoming, in which a Teton Village man who claimed self-defense in shooting a grizzly was convicted of killing a bear without a license.

Mark Bruscino, bear management program supervisor for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, testified at the trial about how bears act before they attack a person and told jurors that most often bruins will retreat during an encounter.

“This whole thing adds up to that people need to make sure they are in a self-defense situation,” Bruscino said in an interview after the trial. “You can’t kill wildlife based on an undemonstrated fear of an unrealistic threat.”

People and bears have close encounters in Denali all the time. We hike the same drainages, go through the same brushy areas with limited visibility, climb up over the same passes. Personally, I have had two encounters when solo hiking. Up until now, hikers have had to rely on their training to deal with the situation: stand your ground, wave our arms, talk to the bear, group together if possible. In the few moments when the bear has you wondering what it will do, it's an adrenaline rush, for sure. But then to have it end peacefully with the bear continuing on making its living and you continuing on your hike -- that is what the Denali landscape, a wild landscape, can teach us. This recent incident has me terribly concerned that people will not think and will not allow the bear time to make decisions as to how it will deal with the situation. We'll shoot now. Ask questions later. I have no doubt this was a dramatic, scary encounter. But I also have no doubt that if the backpackers would have used their brains rather than their gun and been patient, that the bear would be alive today and the backpackers would have an amazing story to tell. "There we were ..."

Sorry the bear was killed. Sorry the backpackers were in that situation. Now turn the page and wait for the circumstances to come to light before making any judgements.

I agree with the comment submitted by Volpe. We cannot make a judgement until all the facts are known as to whether the hikers were really in danger or was it a case of shoot first/talk about it later. And, since the hikers are probably the only witnesses, a lot will depend upon their truthfulness.

Unless the pistol was a rare .45 magnum auto (very unlikely), the range could not have that great to the animal.

We certainly need to wait for the available facts to come in before making a judgement or conclusion. It used to be in many states that if your home was invaded you had show that you had fear for your life in order to use a firearm-in other words, you had a duty to retreat. This is, in my opinion, ludicrous when someone has come uninvited into your home and due to the "Castle Doctrine" is no longer true in most states. However, in this case, the hikers are going into the bear's home, so I think they (meaning all of us who venture into the bear's territory) do have a duty to "retreat" (attempt to remove ourselves or convince the bear to go away).

That said, you should not have to wait until a bear is gnawing on your companion before being justified in using deadly force.

Kurt, you didn't indicate whether the "three rangers (who) hiked into the site" were armed. That would be an additional interesting bit of info.

I have to think that the words "illegal to discharge" mean illegal to target practice, shoot at animals or fire your weapon ever EXCEPT if attacked by an animal or human -- in other words, only for self-defense. If a bear is charging me, am I going to try and figure out it's intentions -- hell no !! Most bears are extremely fast over short distances. I ALWAYS carry a concealed handgun when hiking in the forest, no matter where it is and no matter what the law says about it. If officials begin frisking people for guns, then I'll stop visiting that forest, period.

Read the bear safety information on Denali's website: http://www.nps.gov/dena/bear-safety.htm ... It says that bears bluff charge. Then, think about their evolutionary history: Grizzlies evolved on open country -- the Great Plains, open tundra. Unlike black bears who prefer more forested areas, grizzlies didn't have big trees to climb when they felt threatened. Also, they are used to being the dominant animal on the landscape. So with no where to hide, grizzlies evolved to evaluate things they perceived as threats. Biologists say the goal of the bluff charge is to see if the bear is more dominant than the thing being charged, which is why standing your ground is so important in a grizzly encounter. I have been bluff charged by a grizzly. It's scary, but it's the bear processing the situation. I've also seen bears hightailing it away from me; they obviously became aware of me before I was aware of them and they chose to run. I have also watched a bear traveling down a river bar take evasive action by climbing up into the brush seemingly to avoid hikers walking up the river bar whose behavior seemed to indicate they never even knew the bear was there. The bear then emerged once the people passed and continued traveling down the river bar. I know everyone wants to give the backpackers credit here. Okay, fine. But the stats are on the side of the bears that nothing would have happened. As long as we have people packing pieces in Denali no bear is going to survive making a bluff charge ... Unfortunately we cannot retrain the bears to say the rules have changed. Something extremely valuable to our few remaining wild places is being lost here.

MarkK,

My guess is that they were armed, and legally so.

Not sure why that would be an interesting bit of info, though. If they're going to search for a grizzly that could be wounded, instead of dead, wouldn't it be foolhardy not to be armed?

I'm with RP!!! I don't read the minds of bears and therefore if human life could be harmed I will do whatever is necessary to save it. MarkK bears are not rational animals. This is not your castle/my castle situation. Man and beast are instictly enemeies and grizzlies have the instinct many times to attack. This is not simply a young innocent black bear. I've had friends down towards Anchorage who were chased by grizzlies and they are lucky they lived. As Americans we have the legal right to own a firearm and to carry it for self-defense. If a bear is close enough that it can be killed with a 45 then that's def. self-defense. These are not poachers.

VP, there are no "excepts" in the law. Had this conversation with a law enforcement ranger in Yellowstone.

There has never been a human fatality caused by a bear in Denali National Park. There have been very few instances where bears have actually made physical contact with hikers in Denali, and never a really serious attack. There are several bluff charge incidents and close encounters in the park every year, at least one that was very successfully deterred with pepper spray a couple years ago and the others did not even require that measure for the bear to leave. The park's wildlife managers are quick to respond and very proactive in managing bear incidents and enacting closures when it is necessary for public safety. In short, there is no need to carry a firearm in Denali to defend yourself from a Grizzly attack, and no substitute for common sense and taking other precautions like making noise while hiking. Read any and all of the studies and literature on bear attacks and you will find this to be well supported.

Hiking in grizzly bear habitat will inevitably bring you in close contact with bears and 99% of the time that will be without incident. I have had numerous close encounters with bears in Denali, and none of them have been an instance where I would have needed to shoot a bear.

For those wondering if the wildlife techs and rangers would have been armed while looking for the bear the answer is yes. The Denali Grizzly Bear Management Plan requires techs and rangers to carry a firearm in certain instances, such as hiking to close a kill site, or when actively managing a problem bear. These rangers hiking armed is entirely different from a member of the general public. Members of the park wildlife management team are given extensive training in bear behavior to determine what kind of encounter they are having and what the necessary level of management action is. When hiking armed as a wildlife tech, one person will have a shotgun loaded with "aversive rounds" such as rubber slugs and beanbags that can be used to non-lethally deter a bear if it becomes necessary. Another member of the team will carry lethal rounds as a last resort back-up. All members would be carrying pepper spray, which is nearly 100% effective is used appropriately under the right conditions. Education and training will keep visitors safer than any firearm ever could in bear habitat. Keep in mind that it is still illegal to discharge a firearm in national parks even if you can carry one.

Good I don't want to meet you in the "Forest" with your concealed handgun! So please don't come to Alaska and definately stay out of Denali if you can't hike with your gun

I worked as a Backcountry Ranger at Denali for ten years. I was in charge of informing all backcountry visitors on what to do if they encountered a bear. We never had a problem. I was bluff charged quite regularly, especially along streams where brush exists. Sometimes you just can't make enough noise. However, I'm still alive... the bears never made contact.

If I was afraid of bears, I'd not hike in Denali. If I'd shot every bear that 'threatened' me, there'd be only a handful left. The chance of encountering a grizzly bear is what makes Denali special and truly wild. Take out the bears and you've got some nice scenery, but not truly wild.

Sad, sad, sad. Hope these people are charged with a crime.

I have been living and working in Denali National Park for 8 years. I have encountered bears, been bluff charged, watched my friends be charged, had grizzlies come within 10 feet of my campsites. If you do what you are told in the video you have to watch in order to go backpacking here (back up, talk to the bear, stay calm, etc) there is no real threat. If they drew their gun when they heard a noise in the bushes then they were not doing what they were supposed to do in the first place. The report from NPS says "after they fired 9 rounds they RAN/hiked back to the road". The first thing you learn about bear safety is DON'T RUN. I hope this does not become a trend for uneducated, inexperienced hikes to shoot wildlife when they become frightened.

Hikers "rights" do not rule the law of wildlife management in Denali, and that is as it should be.
We humans are guests in the bears' habitat.

Those hikers were dangerously close to a permanent bear closure, and they had to have been aware of that reality.If they weren't, they shouldn't have been allowed to hike there.

If you read the press release on the Denali NP&P website, the hiker admitted drawing his pistol when he had only heard what he thought was a bear.
Did they turn tail and leave the area when they heard the bear? No. They kept hiking with a gun drawn. And then a bear got shot.

The wilderness area at Denali should now be closed to human hiking. Period.
Shame on the hikers for acting irrationally. Shame on the NPS for allowing humans to invade the bears' territory.

Perhaps there are areas where hikers should only be allowed when accompanied by a licensed guide well versed in the behavior of ill mannered beasties with great big teeth.I think that most people when being charged by a Grizzly,would feel a legitimate fear for their lives.I was not there so it would be wrong of me to condemn either the bear or the hikers.That being said I would much rather be charged with illegally killing a bear than to be posthumously charged with feeding a bear without a license!

Sure is a lot of second guessing goin' on here.. since no one else was there but them isnt it enough that they considered their lives in danger and acted.. or is it better that they should be in the morgue instead of the bear.. I havent seen one comment on the shooting skill that it took to accomplish this or the presence of mind to actually hit it considering the stress of the moment.
Armchair quarterbacks abound.

A .45 Caliber semi-automatic pistol is actually a very low powered weapon for ecountering bears. I would have to assume that he bear was shot at point blank range in order for it to be killed. The .45 ACP would have neglible penetration on a grizzly bear even as close as 25 yards. That bear had to be close enough to pose a threat. In all reality, the couple is lucky to be alive.

I also have spent hours hiking in Denali Park and I too have encountered grizzlies on multiple occasions. I would never carry a weapon and wish the law allowing people to do so in our National Parks did not exist. When we go into the wilderness we knowingly enter a different situation. We are somewhat our of our element and comfort zone. We are not and should not be the dominant species. A certain edge of fear and uncertainty is to be expected. A grizzly is a remarkable product of it's environment. I have seen them mate, nurse their young, battle each other, feed on flowers and on moose, slide across a snow field, let me know they would prefer I was elsewhere, and ignore me completely. I have had my heart rate increased by their nearness and curiosity. I thrill in all these encounters. I have been up Tattler Creek. I do not doubt that the bear was curious or making its presence known. Anyone hiking in bear needs to make noise, needs to avoid thick brush, needs to stand their ground and make sure the bear has the opportunity to know who they are. I fear the shoot quickly mentality will change the human-bear relations in the park where no one has been killed by a bear. If you are going into a situation where you need a gun to protect yourself you should probably do your best to avoid the situation. I go into the wilderness on the bears terms and I have been greatly rewarded.

I doubt the hikers were trying to kill a grizzly, it would be foolish using only a .45 ACP. Grizzlies are know to run up to over 30 mph, I guess it boils down to kill or be killed. I believe human lives are worth more then a bear intent on killing. I hope we do not become so anti-gun that a person should not have the right to protect their life when endanger of death.

Since we're all playing arm chair quarterback. How or when would you propose deciding the difference between a bluff charge and a real threat? My guess is by the time you knew the difference it would be far too late. One shot from a 45 is very unlikely to stop a bear. Glad the hikers are OK, sorry a bear died in the process.

I would defy an Alaskan jury to convict these individuals. I'm sure there will be plenty of wiggle room for reasonable doubt as to whether this was self defense. Even if it turns out to be a civil case, the preponderence of the evidence will be in favor of the hikers.

Shoot the bear! Big difference between a hiker with a 45ACP and a poacher with a long rifle.
Know the difference boys.

If you're scared of hiking in griz country to the point that you feel the need to carry a loaded firearm, then stay the HELL out of griz country.

[Ed: This comment was edited.]

First mistake: the backcountry safety video in Denali is only required viewing for those who are camping overnight in the backcountry.
Day hikers in the backcountry are not required to go through any awareness or safety training.

Perhaps every single visitor going into the park should now be required to go through backcountry awareness training.

Perhaps these hikers had plenty of awareness training, but chose to hide behind the safety of a gun.

A recent trial in Wyoming concerning similar circumstances found the hiker/shooter GUILTY, the conviction from a jury of his peers (fellow hunters and hikers). The trial stemmed from an incident last September, well before the new gun law went into effect. I do not think the shooting took place within the national park boundary:

http://www.jhnewsandguide.com/article.php?art_id=6025

Sure there is a lot of armchair quarterbacking going on here. Gun owners and wilderness hikers are very passionate people, and their circles of influence are not mutually exclusive. The tree huggers see this as another case of shoot first, ask questions later. The gun owners see this as a case of kill or be killed.

It's interesting to note that the new legal carry law for national parks allows carry of a loaded weapon, but does not allow discharge of a loaded weapon.
The only good thing about this law (a law that had to be hidden inside financial legislation to skate its' way through congress without serious legal examination) is that it is written so vaguely. Perhaps the openness of the legislation will support the safety of the wild creatures that will continue to die at the end of a firearm.

Wilderness and wildlife protection ethics should rule the judgment of this situation for the simple fact that the ones with the gun were invading on another creatures territory. Just because they are human does not give them the right to do whatever they want to in a wilderness area.

IMHO, what I would like to see is temporary closure of all wilderness areas within the national park system (at the very least within Denali) until the organization can come up with a comprehensive plan to better avoid situations just like this.

The only relevant fact is how far the bear was from the backpackers at the time and how fast he was approaching them. Whether or not the bear was making a bluff charge is something the backpackers could not know unless they can read the mind of a bear.

Grizzly attacks in Alaska are very common. When we were there in the summer of '08, there was an attack on a woman picking berries in the Kenai, an attack on a woman who worked at the Kenai Princess Lodge on lodge grounds and an attack on a woman in a mountain bike race near Anchorage. The article doesn't say whether these people were Alaskans but reading about frequent incidents like that must have an effect on how they react.

If the backpackers were just looking for a chance to shoot a bear, they wouldn't have hiked immediately to the nearest road and reported the shooting to a ranger. If they thought they'd done something wrong, they could have just hiked out and no one would have known anything until the bear's carcass was found, if ever. They may have thought that other hikers in the area should be warned. Without facts to the contrary, I am not going to condemn the backpackers for what they did.

It makes me sick that several posters seem to feel it would be better for hikers to die than to kill a bear. Bears do kill and seriously injure people each year. It is our right as humans to defend our lives from deadly threats. Given the choice between dead hikers and dead bears, I'll always pick the dead bears.

Yep - lets just close everything to everybody. This will be a brilliant solution to man v. beast. Lets spend more resources and more worry and energy over this non-event than the death of people. In 30 years or less personal liberties will be vaporized, everyone will be confined to urban / suburban areas (oh, except for those special people - you know who you are..) in large part because of mentalities that are displayed in these comments. The sad thing is, they can't even fathom it....

A quote by Richard 'Dick' Proeneke fits this situation perfectly.

"Is it proper that the wilderness and its' creatures should suffer because we came?"

It would be interesting to see the IP's of all the posters here and show how many really live in cities and suburbia and only have a political motive for posting.. Its a shame so many ideologues will attempt to make this a statement on Civil Rights issues they want revoked rather than what it is, a man saving his wife's life and being forced to kill a bear in the process.. think for a minute, all this took place probably in less than 60 seconds, closer to 15 or 20 in reality where he had to make a decision about threat, options, and his wife's saftey and then ask yourself what would you have done if it was your wife or child.. then tell me you'd be pissin' about it like many are..

For what it's worth, the folks at Denali say they have never had a hiker/backpacker killed by a grizzly. There have been instances of folks being injured by bears. The only serious mauling park officials can immediately call to mind was back in the 1970s and that one involved an NPS employee.

"All of the other incidents have resulted in minor injuries," says Denali spokeswoman Kris Fister. "The last one was at least two years ago, maybe three."

I plan to carry a concealed handgun when I visit Yellowstone and Glacier Nat'l Parks this summer. I've taken over 30 hours of live-fire training on a range with former Law Enforcement and Blackwater contractors in order to react to a bear threat. Please understand, I'm using bear spray as a primary defense but if I spray and the bear changes direction, charges from the side, then attacks me, I want to use my sidearm ONLY as a last-resort. I have some serious questions. I'm not being facetious.

How many times should I allow the bear to bite me before I draw my weapon? How many bones need to be broken or organs pierced? If juries are going to jail people for using a handgun in self-defense, what line does the bear need to cross before I can convince the jury that I was justified in using my weapon? In my training, I've practiced one handed and one eyed (non-dominant) self-defense shooting for just this situation. My trainers think I'm crazy for waiting to be mauled before doing something, but I don't want to go to jail and lose my firearm. I'd rather lose an eye or be paralyzed than go to jail! I think that if I allow the bear to maim me to a certain extent, I should then be allowed to use my weapon. How far would you allow the bear to go before you took similar action?

As an avid backpacker of Denali NP and one who just happened to be there when the helicopter landed at Igloo and brought out the carcass. I have just one point: If your afraid of bears, don't go into the back country. Period. No compromise. Denail NP is not Anchorage, Glacier NP, or like any other Park in the U.S. It is wild. This young military minded man discharged 9 rounds into a young bear and most likely 8 of them were in the backside, as it was running away.

No one made the hikers choose Denali. There are plenty of National Parks that don't contain bears. Until now, no major injuries occurred where a bear had to be shot until May 2010 when fire arms are allowed. The hikers went to the bears habitat; the bear did not wonder in to the hikers neighborhood. If you don't want to take the risk, don't go.

I don't think anyone is really saying that we should prefer dead hikers over a dead bear. The question will always be was the intention of the bear to attack or scare? What bothers me is if you want to enjoy our forests and WILDlife, how do you justify carrying a weapon to kill the WILDlife you are there to enjoy?
This all just seems so ridiculous to me that people would want to go into this back country and yet feel the need to carry a weapon for protection and to kill an animal that you are there to see.
I knew this article would bring out all of the gun maniacs that believe it would be better just to kill all of the bears, wolves, cougars, etc. to make our forests safer so they can hike and see.........what???? Nothing left.
And btw, at least have the nerve to not be 'anonymous' in your bold postings.

Shooting after the threat is no longer a threat, even in your own house, changes everything. I see 1 count of self-defense and 8 counts of reckless endangerment and whatever else the Federal authorities can charge this person with. He needs to be made a clear example of what NOT to do if NPS wants to prevent this in the future.

Hikers got lucky; 9 rounds from a .45 would have been effective against a brown bear only at very close range, probably less than 20 feet, and then only against a frontal attack by the bear. All nine rounds from a .45 with an extended magazine, fired into the backside of a bear, would only have made the bear very, very mad, and likely would not have been fatal to the bear. Shooting sounds fully justified to me, based just on the outcome and the weapon used. Now, a .357 Magnum or a .44 Magnum revolver would have been much more appropriate for carrying than a .45 in bear country, and would have been lethal on the bear from either the front or side or even the rear of the bear. Lots more questions would need to be asked had either of them been used instead of a .45 ACP. But, with a .45, there are many fewer questions that need to be asked. Sounds like the outcome was exactly as it should be, with the hikers alive and safe.

If this would have happened elsewhere in the state there would be a small paragraph in the local paper, & the story would be over. Many residents carry for self defense when in the AK backcountry, fishing, hiking, etc. Incidents like this one happen a few times every year elsewhere in the state.

The difference is, people who weren't comfortable hiking in the national parks unarmed, now can. Some perhaps, with a false sense of security.

A veteran of a six day 44 mile backpacking trip in Denali, I can tell you it was a true wilderness experience. Like everything else in the park, you're always aware of your surroundings. Mid day naps along the creek not recommended... I went through the backcountry presentation and thought it was good except except for the part about putting your stew pots in the bear can if a bruin shows up during dinner preparation. More emphasis should have been made to just boil water for dehydrated food. No simmer meals, lol.

The time for seeing wildlife is on the tundra 200 + yards away, not in the bush a few mere yards away. We avoided problems by having a party large enough, that we sounded like a small tribe as we hiked. Most of these problems occur with either solo hikers or couples who tend not to make their presence known. A week after our trip there we two incidents involving bears, I believe both were European, one was crawling through the bush to get photographs when all of a sudden a sow with cubs was 50-60 feet away. She attacked the prone photgrapher who then hit her with an ice ax, she left. That couldn't have ended well for the bear either.

The fact that the couple hiked straight out and contacted an employee right away would seem to fit in with their story. The authorities should be able to make a determination on what happened based on where the bullet wounds are located.

Perhaps the hiker here was justified in shooting the bear but the details needed to determine this are not public yet (and may never be). Speaking as an avid back packer and gun owner, I'm worried that peremptory, hasty or not fully justified use of firearms against wildlife in a place like Denali will deteriorate the wilderness experience for all of us.

Denali hikers have thousands of very close contacts with bears each summer. The extremely low injury rate of people due to bear encounters shows that being around these bears is by and large “safe” and I can attest that it is thrilling to encounter a bear at close range. But, if the criteria for determining when lethal self defense from a bear is allowed becomes a measure of proximity and direction of travel (perceived threat), the bears will be slowly picked off, one by one, in situations just like this. This will fundamentally alter and cheapen the character of Denali's wilderness experience for anyone who visits.

I believe that when I carry a sidearm (or even pepper spray) I subconsciously alter my behavior toward my surroundings and operate with a false sense of security. I more likely to ignore the precautions that would likely prevent a sudden and unexpected encounter with a bear. Bear attacks are often accidents, the bear was scared because the person and bear met unexpectedly at close range.

My experience hiking in Denali and Yellowstone and other places teaches me that reliance on a firearm for self defense from animals is highly overrated and in most instances misplaced. My anecdotal review of bear attacks (Stephen Herrero's book and others) and my personal encounters with various dangersous animals reveals that bear attacks in these wilderness areas are likely to happen little or no warning, leaving most victims with little or no opportunity to make a meaningful defense, with pepper spray or a firearm.

I'm willing to take my chances when I enter a wilderness like Denali and I assume the risk of not carrying a firearm or pepper spray but I know that many people will legally choose to do so. Gun carriers must adopt or create a strict culture of use and engagement against wildlife in parks. Here’s my advise; learn all that you can about bear behavior and how you should react to a bear, take all of the normal precautions of travel in bear country and don’t take unnecessary risks, carry at least a .44 mag, open carry, and learn how to use it (5000 rounds), travel in groups of 4 or more,. Finally, be certain before pulling the trigger and don’t panic because you may regret getting worked over by the legal system more than by a bear. Until a bear is less than 10 yards away, it is much more likely to leave than attack.

There are situations in which a firearm may prevent a serious injury or deadly attack but statistically they are insignificant compared to all other hazards in our parks. We spend our collective time worrying about the tooth and fang encounters when we should reassure ourselves that we are much more likely to die driving to the park, in a river crossing, from weather exposure, a fall, lightning etc.

Without a lot more info, no conclusion can be drawn. Worked for a few years in AK back country, several friends were maimed and 2 killed by bears. Have been up close and personal with bears, cats, and other animals many times in many places, have had to shoot some of them. No one I know works out in the bush w/o a 44 Mag or a "Mare's leg" rifle, it's a good way to change your position in the food chain. This isn't Disneyland, the animals here are real. Not every encounter with a bear is a "need to shoot" situation, but neither is it necessarily a "non-shooting" situation. The video training given should extend to all visitors, and should include something about firearms policy and alternatives.Those that would demonize or exonerate this couple should wait for all the facts first. If I had to guess, I'd say the shooting will probably be ruled justifiable but unfortunate, and hopefully will lead to a change in information given to those who visit the park.

One Anonymous person wrote: "I've taken over 30 hours of live-fire training on a range with former Law Enforcement and Blackwater contractors in order to react to a bear threat.... In my training, I've practiced one handed and one eyed (non-dominant) self-defense shooting for just this situation.... I don't want to go to jail and lose my firearm. I'd rather lose an eye or be paralyzed than go to jail!" I have to hope this is a rather cleverly crafted joke haha

Regardless of how this turns out though, there will be tough calls, and this is probably the first of many. Years down the line we will probably be comparing data from before and after the ban was lifted, and there (and not by examining individual close calls) we might better understand the impact of the ban on wildlife and human fatalities.

There are obnoxious comments on both sides, but just because you are skeptical of whether this shooting was justified doesn't mean you value the life of a human being over a bear, it may just mean you don't think lifting the ban was overall a good thing.

In these cases, you will never know what WOULD have happened had the person not had a gun, or whether (without their gun) their entire course of actions leading up to the bear encounter would have been different. Maybe they would have walked a little louder in the minutes leading up to the encounter (thereby avoiding the encounter), maybe they would have planned their trip a little differently to avoid such encounters, maybe they would have chosen not to go at all (because he/she couldn't bring their guns). So I think even once we get more facts in, it might actually say very little about how this would have played out if the ban had been in place because whether you have a gun may impact a lot more than simply what you do in the moment when you're face to face with a bear. Which is all why I think the long-term data may be more instructive than just trying to judge if this person was in lethal danger in the moments before the shooting. And it's why I don't value the lives of bears over humans, I just worry that this has changed the calculus for a lot of people so much that they do a lot of things differently and the end result after many years will be more animals getting killed in more encounters that could have ended peacefully or been avoided altogether, one way or another.

Kurt, I am wondering too what the difference is as far as carrying a handgun in the national preserve portion of Denali, both pre- and post-ban. Obviously hunting has been allowed in preserves, but were handguns allowed too before?

You chose to enter the National parks at your own risk and therefore you assume the risk of a bear encounter. Having worked at Yellowstone I dealt with bear encounters and even had a close call myself. I agree that it is nice to have a firearm in case of an emergency but carrying a firearm poses a great risk to our law enforcement in the park. Not everyone is responsible with their firearm. To add, this case and others like it a far and few between. The hikers should have been making noise as they were walking through the brush to ensure that the grizzly heard them approaching. Had they been making a considerable amount of noise, the bear would have been frightened and ran away seeing as how grizzly bears are non-confrontational. I guess we will see how the year goes but if wildlife are being killed for no reason or it could have been prevented in cases to come, congress should re-examine the law and reverse it.

I'll add one more thing, there are very few National Parks outside of Alaska where carrying a firearm is warranted. I too get nervous in the fall when I see hunters on horseback while out hiking. I can see where inexperienced backcountry visitors who are armed, possibly without much handgun/firearms training, can add up to a volatile situation.

MikeD wrote "I have to hope this is a rather cleverly crafted joke"... No sir, I am an antique arms collector and the last thing I want to do is have the Feds confiscate everything I've collected and lose my right to own arms due to breaking a Federal "no discharge" law. It's worth a lot to me, both monetarily and sentimentally, and at this point I'm considering leaving my sidearm at home. The law is too ambiguous and leaves prosecutors with ample opportunity to paint a picture of a firearm owner with a motive. I only want to defend myself as a last resort just like I can in public. It seems that NPS can discharge a firearm in a park, but the average citizen cannot. That's a shame. Those Fed employees only have to re-qualify with firearms once a year and don't target shoot every week as a hobby. I trained beside them, and most remind me of Recruit Hooks from the Police Academy movie.

This year will be my 9th visit to Glacier and the first time having the right to defend myself with a firearm thanks to the Coburn Amendment. All other 8 times, I had to take my chances with bear spray. It seems like taking my chances by not being armed will result in less problems for my collecting and reenacting hobbies if it actually comes down to needing to use the firearm to save my life or that of my loved-one. :-(

I have read a lot about bears and their bluff charges. I have read a lot of stories here about how some people would never carry a gun -as they could "Talk to the bear and wave their arms" for defense.
I also read about the woman who was ripped from her roof and eaten. This after the bear broke into her and her husbands cabin and he ran for help.
I don't know that much about bears but I know 45 ACPs. These are short range weapons 15-25 yards under ideal conditions. Hitting a bear with this under-powered weapon (not a weapon for bear) would have had to be close quarters.
We don't have all the answers yet, perhaps a couple of warning shots were fired and the bear kept coming. I really want to know what happened out there.
One more thing, if the hiker really wanted to just kill a bear, I can think of a better sidearm than a 45 for that size game.

non-confrontational? Bear breaks into cabin -occupants retreat to roof - man goes for help. When he returns he finds his half eaten companion on the roof.
That's pretty confrontational.

I agree, it be foolhardy not to be armed when going into an area where there might be a wounded bear. It's interesting because of the comparison of risk vs knowledge. A wounded bear is a greater risk than a non-wounded bear, but these are also rangers who presumably are experts in dealing with bears. In my mind it supports the idea of a less expert person arming themselves against the dangers of a non-wounded bear. As someone pointed out, statistically, the bear was likely bluff charging, but when all is said and done, I would rather mourn a bear who was bluff charging than mourn hikers for whom the bear wasn't bluffing.

If you hike up Mt Rainier in the fall you might get caught in a storm and die. If you hike into the Narrows at Zion a flash flood might drown you. If you back pack in Denali you might encounter a grisly bear and that bear might attack you. Shooting a grisly in Denali is wrong. If you go to Denali prepared to kill a grisly you shouldn’t be there. Rouge bears that are seeking out humans are a different story and should be dwelt with by the rangers. I’m not backpacking into Denali because I don’t want that kind of encounter.