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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.


True, the bear might have just been wanting to get to know the hikers just a little better. Maybe have some tea and discuss the weather. They should have waited until it was securely gnawing on one of their skulls to determine if it was just feeling them out or bluffing.

No, any number of scenarios (cubs, sick, hungry, etc.) would have made the bear attack, very few would make that close of an encounter end peacefully. The approach you recommend is simply anti-gun naivete, it has nothing to do with some kind of superior "brains", and it's frankly offensive to hear gun carriers characterized with blanket liberal faux superiority.

If you knew some gun owners you'd find that, more often than not, we are fair about assessing a situation and making a good decision based on the information. It is with a weapon that somewhat levels the playing field against a half-ton killing machine that humans can feel secure enough to consider the options to shoot, to warn, or to walk away. Without a weapon, you have no options. You're just relying on sheer luck of the bear's good intentions and subsequent actions.

The unbelievable naive and dangerous views of the anti-gun lot make me worry for society.

Someone was claiming in the comments that there hasn't been a human fatality caused by griz in Denali. That is wrong:

Although that guy was being incredibly irreverant to nature.

Listen. It is sad that the bear died. I agree and hope his spirit will not be offended. But my ancestors believed killing a bear to be a high honor, and I'll tell you that my ancesstors killed griz with guns, and had they been in this situation, they would have reacted the same way as these hikers.

Nope, he didn't carry a gun. I guess he also did not carry bear spray, which would have helped save his life.

Is it 'fair' that he should die for getting too close to a grizzly? Hell, my dad got his hand too close to a lawn mower years ago and lost part of a finger. It wasn't 'fair', it simply was a fact of nature. By all reports this unfortunate fellow was taking pictures well within the dangerous distance. I say, if you find yourself in such a situation, REMOVE yourself from that situation, don't continue to take more pictures.

Bear spray. Bear spray. Bear spray. Everyone goes home to live another day.

Excellent response. So many people back up for the day and "take a hike in nature" not having a clue as to what they are doing. Even some serious hikers and backpackers have not taken the time to educate themselves on wildlife, wildlife behaviours and how to avoid confrontations if at all possible. For someone to say "it's about time someone valued people over animals" is short-sided and selfish.

Curious, what is the result of this issue now over 2 years later?

It is interesting to read the older coomments in this thread in light of the just announced killing and eating of a hiker in Denali. All the platitudes and "advice" and "training" given by the rangers and other so-called experts didn't save the victim in this case. Did he get too close to the bear? Apparently. But does that mean that he should die in a horrible way, not being able to defend himself against attack? Grizzlies can and will attack (and eat) humans, sometimes without warning from close cover. As long as humans are allowed to hike in areas where they may encounter bears, either black or grizzlies, it is prudent to carry a firearm to protect human life if all else fails. Should a last resort but there should be a last resort allowed.

Alaska grizzly bear kills Calif. man in first fatal bear attack at Denali National Park

By Associated Press, Published: August 25, 2012

The hiker was identified late Saturday as Richard White, 49, of San Diego. Officials learned of the attack after hikers stumbled upon an abandoned backpack along the river about three miles from a rest area on Friday afternoon. The hikers also spotted torn clothing and blood. They immediately hiked back and alerted staff park. Rangers in a helicopter spotted a large male grizzly bear sitting on the hiker’s remains, which they called a “food cache” in the underbrush about 100 to 150 yards from the site of the attack on Friday.


I cannot beleive some of the comments on here. Incredible How the hell does anyone know the difference between a bluff charge and a real charge? Id like the people that supposedly worked at denali to tell us.

Bear Spray, yelling and waving your arms really on a grizzly? Let me know how that works out for ya. I do agree with a lot of the comments on here though about the range of the hiker with a 45 acp handgun. To have killed a grizzly with a 45 acp the range must damn near been point blank. 45 is a slow moving slug. My hats off to the guy to being able to do it without becoming lunch.

I also have to ask all the gun haters that (that are male) posted their review how would you have reacted if it was please tell us. 2 hikers one male one female probably the guys wife/gf wouldn't you do what you could to protect her? If not Id have to question your morale character.

I do a lot of hiking all the time, and yes I do carry. I think it's irresponsible not to. Guns do have a place (despite all the people that think they don't). Guns can be used for self defense like in this case. Food if you happen to get lost or hurt and are out longer than expected. If lost it can be used as a locating tool if you know people are looking for ya, or it can be simple as self defense if you come across a 2 legged person who wants to get rid of ya.

I just think people jumped to conclusions without knowin the facts. If you are a gun hater please don't comment about something you know nothing about. Just like I wouldn't comment about your environmentalistic, gun banning advocate, probably pro-abortion vegetarian life that I know nothing about.

The people that have jumped on this guy for shooting the bear probably couldn't tell ya the difference between a 45 and a 300 win mag. I hate poachers, but bottom line is a 45 is not a poaching gun it's a self defense weapon.

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