Bear kills man in Alaska national park
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A hiker in Alaska’s Denali National Park photographed a grizzly bear for at least eight minutes before the bear mauled and killed him in the first fatal attack in the park’s history, officials said Saturday.
Investigators have recovered the camera and looked at the photographs, which show the bear grazing and not acting aggressively before the Friday attack, Denali Park Superintendent Paul Anderson said.
A state trooper shot and killed the male bear on Saturday.
The hiker was identified late Saturday as Richard White, 49, of San Diego. He was backpacking alone along the Toklat River on Friday afternoon when he came within 50 yards (50 meters) of the bear, far closer than the quarter-mile (0.4 kilometers) of separation required by park rules, officials said.
“They show the bear grazing in the willows, not acting aggressive in any form or manner during that period of time,” Anderson said of the photos.
Officials learned of the attack after hikers stumbled upon an abandoned backpack along the river about three miles (5 kilometers) 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 (meters) from the site of the attack on Friday.
Investigators examined the bear’s stomach contents, looked at White’s photos and used other tests Saturday evening to confirm that it was the animal that killed White, park officials said in a statement Saturday night.
White’s remains were recovered Saturday evening and were being sent to the medical examiner in Anchorage.
There’s no indication that the man’s death was the result of anything other than a bear attack, investigators said, adding that it’s the first known fatal mauling in the park’s nearly century-long history.
“Over the years, and especially since the 1970s, the park has worked very diligently to minimize the conflict between humans and wildlife in the park,” Anderson said. “We have some of the most stringent human-wildlife conflict regulations in the National Park system, and I think those are largely responsible for the fact that there hasn’t been a fatal attack.”
Denali is located 240 miles north of Anchorage. It spans more than 6 million acres and is home to numerous wild animals, including bears, wolves, caribou and moose.
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