Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Grizzly Bear Shot by Backpackers in Denali National Park

The American Alpine Institute just received the following from Denali National Park:

Two backpackers, a man and woman, encountered a grizzly bear Friday evening while hiking in the dense brush along the edge of Tattler Creek, which is at the west end of the Igloo Canyon, approximately 35 miles from 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.

The backpackers ran and hiked approximately 1-1/2 miles back to the road, where they encountered a National Park Service employee, who called in the incident to the park’s communication center and transported them 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. 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. It is legal to carry a firearm in the former Mt. McKinley National Park portion of the park, but it is not legal to discharge it.

This is the first known instance of a grizzly bear being shot by a visitor in the wilderness portion of the park. The estimated grizzly bear population in the park north of the Alaska Range north is 300-350 animals.


Anonymous said...

Legal to carry a weapon, but illegal to discharge it? If my choices are to get mauled, be killed or take out the animal that is trying to kill me - pretty simple. I side with the hikers. If you happen to run into a crazy hiker who wants to beat the crud out of you with a stick, do you let him do it or do you take care of business?

American Alpine Institute said...

The question that they have to address is whether or not the bear really was dangerous. There have been many cases where an individual shoots a bear because of perceived danger instead of real danger.

In the end, it's all about education. Bears are not as big a threat as we make them out to be.

Now that may or may not be the case here. The bear very well may have been aggressive and dangerous...but that's what the investigators have to decide.