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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.


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.

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