A backpacker was killed by a grizzly bear Friday in Alaska’s Denali National Park, marking the first fatal mauling by a grizzly in park history. What prompted the attack is not known but a camera was found nearby and photographs reveal that the victim had been as close as 50 yards and had photographed the animal for at least eight minutes.
Park officials confirmed the incident Saturday, as rangers set out to secure the attack site, recover the body, and search for the bear. They ordered an emergency closure of a large area surrounding the attack site: a portion of the Toklat River basin (pictured).
The identity of the victim was not released pending notification of next of kin.
The Associated Press reports that photographs show the bear grazing for an extended period, not acting aggressively. The park requires that visitors stay a quarter-mile from visible bears.
This was the first fatal attack involving a grizzly in Alaska in seven years.
A search was launched after three hikers found an abandoned backpack, and later discovered torn clothing and blood. They notified National Park Service staff after hiking back to a nearby rest area.
A dusk search aboard an an airplane and helicopter revealed the victim’s remains, with at least one bear present. The bear fled as the helicopter landed and two rangers disembarked to inspect the area.
The bear had dragged the victim from where the initial attack occurred, to a more secluded “cache” site.
Because more bears probably were in the vicinity, park officials postponed the recovery effort until Saturday.
They were scrambling Saturday to make sure there were no other hikers or backpackers in the area, which they say provides habitat for about 12 grizzly bears.
Backpackers in Denali receive mandatory ‘Bear Aware’ training prior to receiving a backcountry permit. They also receive a 30-minute safety video, a safety briefing from the backcountry ranger staff, and a mandate to carry a Bear Resistant Food Container.
The Anchorage Daily News reports that this marked the first fatal grizzly bear mauling in Alaska since 2005, when a grizzly killed an Anchorage couple camping in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. That was deemed an unprovoked attack and the bear subsequently was hunted and killed.
– Image shows a portion of the Upper Toklat River, which is near where the attack occurred. Courtesy of Danali National Park and Reserve