No Charges Forthcoming In Shooting of Grizzly In Denali National Park and Preserve

Denali National Park and Preserve officials have concluded that a man who shot and killed a grizzly bear in the park's backcountry back in May did so in self-defense and will not be charged with any crime.

The man and his female companion, both of North Pole, Alaska, told investigators that they were talking to each other while hiking up the Tattler Creek drainage when the bear charged them. The two were about 20-25 feet apart when the man heard a noise in the brush to his right, park officials said Wednesday

"He turned and drew a .45 caliber semi-automatic weapon from a holster on his waist belt. Within seconds, a large grizzly bear emerged from the brush about 25 feet away and charged the woman," the officials said. "The man rapidly fired seven to nine rounds at the right side of the bear. The bear stopped several feet from the woman and then moved back into the brush. Both hikers retreated and hiked to the park road, after noting the location on a GPS."

According to park officials, "neither hiker had much backcountry or Alaska experience, and neither carried non-lethal bear spray. Both had watched the park's backcountry and
bear safety orientation video and had proper backcountry permits."

The grizzly's body was found the following day a short distance from the GPS coordinates provided by the hikers. It was a 434-pound older male with several injuries existing prior to the shooting. None of these injuries is believed to be a factor in the incident, park officials said.

"The man stated that he shot the bear in order to defend the life of the woman. The investigation found no evidence to contradict this assertion, and physical evidence collected by park rangers was consistent with the description of the incident provided by the hikers," park officials said. "The man was lawfully in possession of and carrying a firearm per Public Law 111-24, 123 Stat. 1764-65. The discharge of the gun and killing of the bear were violations of 36 CFR 2.4(a)(1)(iii) (using a weapon) and 36 CFR 2.2
(a)(1) (taking of wildlife)."

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.

However, park officials noted Wednesday that, "There is no federal law in national parks which allows the use of a firearm in defense of life; in Alaska, a state statute does allow the taking of wildlife in defense of life under certain circumstances. The actions in this incident likely would have been a legitimate defense of life under state law. Considering this and other evidence in the case, the park will not pursue criminal prosecution."

The couple's names were not released because no charges were filed against them.

The killing of the grizzly was 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.

Comments

Hmmm.....there is no law which allows the use of a firearm to defend your life... Are these park people people nuts! Should the hiker have allowed the bear to kill his companion? So you are allowed to carry a firearm but it's against the law to use it to protect your life! Amazing & stupid.

Ok Gary look at your state laws wherever you are and tell me the law chapter and section that allows you to use a firearm to kill another person in self defense.

It is likely dealt with on a case by case basis. Just like in Denali with this bear. The case was not pursued. End of story. The system worked. They were put through an investigation. As anyone in their circumstance should be. Carry a firearm, accept that responsibility.

Though it is a shame that the bear had to be killed, it certainly sounds like it was done for the right reasons. Good on the hikers for being able to defend themselves, and good on our legislators for being able to see past the hype and paranoia of carrying firearms in national parks.

45 acp against grizzly? Not so good a choice but better than nothing I guess.

Contrast with this report from Glacier Bay in today's NPS Morning Report (07/30/2010): "The bear continued its charge and got within about 15 feet when Murdoch sprayed him. The bear veered away, continued running into the woods, and did not return ..."

I advocate spray as first defense, 10mm or 44mag as a backup. Less than lethal devices not only are preferred for the animal's sake but also for the person who uses it. I would much rather avoid the red tape of using a firearm for self-defense against anyone or anything, but wouldn't deny myself the ability to carry it in defense of myself and my family if the situation warrants.

corv78:
I advocate spray as first defense, 10mm or 44mag as a backup. Less than lethal devices not only are preferred for the animal's sake but also for the person who uses it. I would much rather avoid the red tape of using a firearm for self-defense against anyone or anything, but wouldn't deny myself the ability to carry it in defense of myself and my family if the situation warrants.
There was the guy who shot at a black bear in a Forest Service campground in Eldorado National Forest last month. The bear did lash out at him, but I gathered it was defensive. The shooter actually confronted the bear when it went after the cooler he'd left in a shelter tent set up over the campsite's picnic table. Of course he left food out in a place where there are clear signs noting that food is to be stored in a vehicle (they didn't have bear boxes at that particular campground).

Personally I'd think one should be really careful with firearms - especially in a campground where there are other campers. He could very well have injured or killed another camper with a stray bullet.

What bothers me most about the incident is the direction interpretation of law is moving! If there isn't a law permitting something then it can be interpreted as breaking the law. Granted, this outcome might not be common, but allowing it to happen, because of publicly sensitive topics, is divisive and can set presidents that endanger all of our freedoms!

I.E. There is not a law allowing me to park there, so I "could" get a ticket....and I can imagine many more!