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

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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

Oh! those stupid hikers. How dare they defends themselves. Listen, You bleeding hearts out there, get a grip!! Just because you've had a Bear charge you and it didnt attack because you've got some special powers that keep Bears away, good for you....Who come first, the human being or the damn Bear? I guess some of you morons would have still blamed the people if they were mauled to death...I can hear it now. Oh my, they should'nt have been in the Bears habitat....Bullcrap !


The "reported" facts were that at some point the bear began to "charge" at one of the hikers. How in the world do you know, in this specific instance, that the bear would have changed it's mind and discontined the charge? There is no way anyone could be absolutely, 100%, sure that it was merely a bluff charge. We need to put the life and safety of human beings ahead of that of the wild life. How would you feel if the facts were a bit different - if hikers came upon a bear (even if they had not noticed or just ignored the signs), one hiker has a gun, the bear charges, but the hiker with the gun waits to see if it was a bluff, and incorrectly assumes so until it was too late? A charging bear can cover 75 to 100 feet in about 2 seconds. Wouldn't you feel ashamed of yourself if you were the one who advised the (dead or severely injured) hikers to never shoot a charging bear because it would probably be just bluffing? Would you feel more or less grief for the human in that hypo than you do for the subject bear in this matter? Perhaps your attitude would be - oh well, it was your (dead) hiking companion's own fault, she should have been more aware of the scat. I'm as much of a nature and wild life lover as anyone else (I carry a handgun and a camera in the wild - and I choose not to hunt or fish), but sometimes a person just has to do what needs to be done in order to save their own life.


Michael, I re-read your post to see if the second pervue would show me where it said 100%. nope...still says 99%. I carry a large caliber revolver when i backpack in areas with large game. A pissed off Elk can kill as easily as a Grizzley. Most backpackers i know that also carry are just like me. Have a decent (not expansive) understanding of bear and large game behaviour and hike accordingly. That said, in my opinion, the thought of me or my loved one being gnawed to death is not very appealing. If i am ever in a situation with a bear and he charges, i will alwasy take the shot, irrespective of whether i think it could be a "bluff" charge. You and everyone else that decries gun carrying simply has no true understanding of how the variables at play mix. simple as that. If that grizzley died as a result of .45 caliber penetration, you can be sure that it was practically on top of that couple. Even then, he had very lucky placement. Get over the belief that every hiker with a gun is hoping for trouble and is trigger happy. Most that enjoy hiking/backpacking are far from that and tend to be ultra responsible with their firearm because of the burden of having to use lethal force.


You have got to be joking. "We are not and should not be the dominant species." Yes, yes we are. Though if too many of us start thinking like you, that could change I guess.


Or were mountain lion attacks unheard of until people began moving into the lions' backyards?


Bears are unpredictable and people have a right to self defense. Second guessing the use of a firearm in self defense before the facts are in is CS in the extreme. Pepper spray does not work "100%" of the time even when used properly, on people or animals. For example, wind direction and speed is critical to effective use. A firearm is also not a panacea but it gives another option. We have a right to explore parks....we pay for these things and for all the protection that the wildlife there are given whether they know it or not. Mountain lion attacks were unheard of until they were given special protection (which they don't need) now they have lost their fear of humans and they are a problem. Another example of the law of unintended consequences.


I have spent a lot of time backpacking in Black Bear country - unarmed. Never again. Here's why:

1) 911 doesn't exist in the back country. While most folks are fine people, in the back country, you are on your own. My first worry is people, not bears.

2) With regard to animals, when not hunted, they loose fear of man. Never a good thing for the animals or humans. While attacks are rare, this is not a risk I am prepared to ignore.

Black bears have actually killed more humans than any other bear in North America - they are not to be taken lightly. Still, bear spray is more than enough in most circustances. It's too bad that in Yosemite they won't even let you carry a California legal 2 oz can of pepper spray - let alone bear spray. Sadly, with California gun laws, the average person still can't carry a gun in the national parks here. You can only carry in areas where it is legal to discharge, so in California parks we can't carry. As far as I am concerned, going there is just too risky - but again, I am more worried about human preditors than animals.

BTW, I would be willing to bet that's why the folks involved in the incident in Alaska that kicked off this thread were carrying for the same reason. A .45 auto is just too weak for big bears, or even the smaller ones. Very, very few handguns are big enough to take down a Brown Bear - even the fabled .44 magnum is far from a sure thing, even with solid hits. To kill this bear these folks needed to be very close and hit it in just the right spot to get into the vitals. Even then, they were lucky the bear didn't kill them before it died (remember it was found some distance away). There is a huge difference between a fatal wound and a wound that can be counted on to stop a threat - human or animal. More people are killed each year with .22s than any other caliber, but that doesn't mean that the cops or the military should start using them. Anyone who knows the first thing about handguns would not carry anything smaller than a .41 Magnum. Personally, in Alaska bear country, I would carry a lightwieght large caliber rifle or a 12ga shotgun loaded with the best slugs I could buy. Bottom line: No way did these people set out to kill a bear - not with that gun.


Sad sad Phil Briggs! You hope the hikers are charged with a crime, but you do not know the circumstances behind their actions. Itis obvious that you have little respect for public safety. I thank you for retiring from being a back country ranger.


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