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Grizzly Bear Shot and Killed By Hikers In Denali National Park and Preserve


A grizzly bear that emerged from a thicket and charged two backpackers in the backcountry of Denali National Park and Preserve was shot and killed by one of the two who was carrying a .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol, according to park officials.

The killing Friday is believed to be the first instance of a hiker killing a grizzly in the park's wilderness. The killing occurred in the original Mount McKinley National Park portion of the Denali, which was expanded by two-thirds in 1980.

Until February, when Congress changed the rules, it was illegal to carry a loaded firearm in that portion of Denali. While the rule change now allows hikers to carry firearms in all areas of Denali, it still is illegal to discharge them, park officials said.

Park officials did not speculate whether the killing was justified. This is believed to be the first instance of a visitor to a national park killing an animal with a firearm since the gun regulations were changed.

According to a release from the park, the two backpackers, a man and woman, were hiking in dense brush along the edge of Tattler Creek, which is at the west end of Igloo Canyon roughly 35 miles from the 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," said the release.

The two then headed roughly 1.5 miles back to a road, where they encountered a park employee, who called in the incident and took the two backpackers 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," the park release said. "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.

The estimated grizzly bear population in the park north of the Alaska Range north is 300-350 animals.


Its about time someone was allowed top defend themselves.
I hope this case does not degenerate into a get the hikers thing.
It seems that they don't give a crap about human life anymore.

Much remains to be learned from the circumstances around the shooting before definitive conclusions can be reached. Among the questions: How far from the hikers was the bear when it was shot? Were there cubs nearby? Was there a carcass nearby? Was the bear healthy?

Other points that can't be overlooked:

* Park officials can't recall any other instance of a hiker/backpacker killing a grizzly in this section of the park. Ever.

* Bears are known to make bluff charges. Was that the case in this instance?

Finally, the fact that gun rules in the parks just changed in February can't help but insert its ugly head into this story. More than a few folks (and Park Service personnel) have worried that some backcountry travelers who arm themselves will shoot first.

Interestingly, a trial just ended in Jackson, Wyoming, in which a Teton Village man who claimed self-defense in shooting a grizzly was convicted of killing a bear without a license.

Mark Bruscino, bear management program supervisor for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, testified at the trial about how bears act before they attack a person and told jurors that most often bruins will retreat during an encounter.

“This whole thing adds up to that people need to make sure they are in a self-defense situation,” Bruscino said in an interview after the trial. “You can’t kill wildlife based on an undemonstrated fear of an unrealistic threat.”

People and bears have close encounters in Denali all the time. We hike the same drainages, go through the same brushy areas with limited visibility, climb up over the same passes. Personally, I have had two encounters when solo hiking. Up until now, hikers have had to rely on their training to deal with the situation: stand your ground, wave our arms, talk to the bear, group together if possible. In the few moments when the bear has you wondering what it will do, it's an adrenaline rush, for sure. But then to have it end peacefully with the bear continuing on making its living and you continuing on your hike -- that is what the Denali landscape, a wild landscape, can teach us. This recent incident has me terribly concerned that people will not think and will not allow the bear time to make decisions as to how it will deal with the situation. We'll shoot now. Ask questions later. I have no doubt this was a dramatic, scary encounter. But I also have no doubt that if the backpackers would have used their brains rather than their gun and been patient, that the bear would be alive today and the backpackers would have an amazing story to tell. "There we were ..."

Sorry the bear was killed. Sorry the backpackers were in that situation. Now turn the page and wait for the circumstances to come to light before making any judgements.

I agree with the comment submitted by Volpe. We cannot make a judgement until all the facts are known as to whether the hikers were really in danger or was it a case of shoot first/talk about it later. And, since the hikers are probably the only witnesses, a lot will depend upon their truthfulness.

Unless the pistol was a rare .45 magnum auto (very unlikely), the range could not have that great to the animal.

We certainly need to wait for the available facts to come in before making a judgement or conclusion. It used to be in many states that if your home was invaded you had show that you had fear for your life in order to use a firearm-in other words, you had a duty to retreat. This is, in my opinion, ludicrous when someone has come uninvited into your home and due to the "Castle Doctrine" is no longer true in most states. However, in this case, the hikers are going into the bear's home, so I think they (meaning all of us who venture into the bear's territory) do have a duty to "retreat" (attempt to remove ourselves or convince the bear to go away).

That said, you should not have to wait until a bear is gnawing on your companion before being justified in using deadly force.

Kurt, you didn't indicate whether the "three rangers (who) hiked into the site" were armed. That would be an additional interesting bit of info.

I have to think that the words "illegal to discharge" mean illegal to target practice, shoot at animals or fire your weapon ever EXCEPT if attacked by an animal or human -- in other words, only for self-defense. If a bear is charging me, am I going to try and figure out it's intentions -- hell no !! Most bears are extremely fast over short distances. I ALWAYS carry a concealed handgun when hiking in the forest, no matter where it is and no matter what the law says about it. If officials begin frisking people for guns, then I'll stop visiting that forest, period.

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