Thursday 21 November 2019

Hiker snapped grizzly before fatal attack

Steven White in 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.

Investigators have recovered the camera and looked at the photographs, which show the bear grazing and not acting aggressively before the attack, Denali Park Superintendent Paul Anderson said.

A policeman shot and killed the male bear on Saturday. The hiker was identified as Richard White (49), from San Diego. He was backpacking alone along the Toklat River on Friday afternoon when he came within 50 metres of the bear, far closer than the 400 metres 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," Supt Anderson said of the photos.

Officials learned of the attack after hikers stumbled upon an abandoned backpack along the river about 5km from a rest area on Friday afternoon. The hikers also spotted torn clothing and blood.

Rangers in a helicopter spotted a large male grizzly bear sitting on the hiker's remains, about 100 to 150 metres from the site of the attack.

Investigators examined the bear's stomach contents, looked at Mr White's photos and used other tests to confirm that it was the animal that killed Mr White, park officials said in a statement Saturday night.

Mr White's remains were recovered on 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 was 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 minimise the conflict between humans and wildlife in the park," Supt 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 spans more than six million acres and is home to numerous wild animals, including bears, wolves and caribou.

Irish Independent

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