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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.


Read the bear safety information on Denali's website: ... 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.


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.

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