A grizzly bear believed to have killed and partially eaten a lone backpacker along the Toklat River in Denali National Park and Preserve was Saturday shot dead by an Alaska Wildlife Trooper hovering in a helicopter above the scene of the earlier attack.
National Park Service officials believe the bear that was killed is the same bear that attacked 49-year-old backpacker Richard White from San Diego on Friday. His death marked the first fatal bear attack in the 49th state this year — and the first in Denali’s modern era.
A wallet with identification was found near White’s remains. Park officials said he had spent three days exploring the park’s wilderness prior to the attack.
“It would appear the hiker was coming down on a Toklat River (gravel) bar and came upon a bear at the edge of the river,” Denali National Park Superintendent Paul Anderson said at a press conference on Saturday. “Rather than try to move around the bear and keep a quarter-mile distance, he approached within 50 yards.”
Park rangers caution hikers that the best way to avoid problems with bears in Alaska is to spot them early and then try to avoid them. The dead hiker appears to have ignored that advice. It is unknown whether he had any previous experience with grizzly bears or hiking in Denali. White was not carrying a gun or pepper spray, which has proven an effective bear deterrent.
Anderson said White’s digital camera was among the items recovered Friday night when a crew first arrived on the scene of the bear attack, and the camera’s timer indicated White spent about eight minutes photographing the bear.
“It was grazing, not aggressive in any manner,” Anderson said after park officials reviewed the photos. There were, he added, no images of a charging bear, but the camera does show the hiker got close to the animal.
“The normal behavior of people is to remain a quarter-mile away from bears and immediately back away if it gets closer,” Anderson said.
The hiker was briefed on these rules before he began his backcountry trip, Anderson added…