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.


Yes, but not all situations end up like the Jungle book. None of these people were there and need to stop trying to share their Dances with Wolves experiences in the wild. I think there need to be some more comments about bear maulings, then people may change their mind sets...

And now another alternative - herbal bug spray!

Interesting, Rick B. But I would just add the following:

Although bear spray has been proven to be more effective than guns in deterring grizzlies, bear maulings are terrible, as Anon above points out, and because they are so terrible, grizzlies should be shot instead of sprayed. It's just common sense.

In that case, it sounds like the smart thing to have done would have been to have policed their brass and walked-on as though nothing happened.

Sorry, anon. Your logic doesn't follow. If a bear is sprayed and goes away, "so terrible" maulings don't occur, and a once-sprayed bear is less likely to approach people in the future. After you admit that spray is more effective, the rest of what you say just sounds like you want to shoot bear.

the rest of what you say just sounds like you want to shoot bear

Much of the above discussion sounds that way. (I was being ironic.)

I see alot of comments here that make me wonder how much people value human life. Yes the bear may have not been wanting to kill the hikers, but to basicly say they should have waited. if your such bear experts than you should know that bears move FAST and you don't have the time to react if you wait till he is in striking distance, then its too late. If he had a .45 Caliber then we can assume a few things, 1 the bear was really close to get a kill shot with a .45, and if he got 9 shots off it must have been much longer than just a bluff charge if he didn't just run away. I give 10% of my paycheck to the P.A.W.S foundation every year and do as much volenteer work as they will allow, I love animals and hate Poachers of ALL kinds, but if you have to protect yourself against an animal then it natural to choose your own life against the animals. I heart goes out to the bear and it also goes out to the hikers, I hike all the time and I carry a small 12g with me for wild animals that decide I look like a good meal, I had only one instance where I saw a mountain lion walking around in an open area, I grabbed my shotgun but also my camera and took some amazing pictures, he looked at me once and I got worried but he moved on, had he decided to start heading my way it might have ended diffently. My point is that I believe the hikers did what they felt they needed to do to protect themselve, they were not bear hunting or poaching just hiking, it was a bad situation that no one would ever want to be in.

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.

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.


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.

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?

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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 !