Alaska State Troopers, assisting Denali National Park and Preserve rangers and park wildlife biologists, on Saturday (Aug. 25) shot and killed the male grizzly who mauled to death Richard White, 49, of San Diego.
The bear was killed as the recovery team attempted to reach White’s remains. The grizzly, a park spokesperson said, was defending the kill site along the Toklat River when it was shot, oldwestnewwest.com reported.
After determining the area was safe, a team of five park rangers moved in to complete the field investigation. White’s remains were removed Saturday evening and will be sent to the medical examiner in Anchorage.
The body of the dead bear was necropsied Saturday evening. The results of the necropsy, combined with the photographs taken by the victim prior to the attack, confirm that this was the animal that killed White, rangers said.
An emergency closure has been put in place prohibiting all backcountry hiking and camping in that backcountry unit and those adjacent to it until further notice.
Although no park visitors were sighted or known to be in the immediate vicinity of the incident, on Saturday morning park staff contacted three parties in adjacent areas and flew them via helicopter to the Toklat River Rest Area.
Park rangers said the incident was the first known bear mauling fatality recorded in the history of Denali National Park and Preserve.
White had been in the Denali backcountry for three nights when he was killed by the bear, rangers said.
Three dayhikers on Friday afternoon discovered an abandoned backpack and evidence of a violent struggle along the Toklat River approximately three miles south of the Toklat River Rest Area, rangers said. They immediately hiked back to the rest area and notified park staff of the findings.
Rangers launched a helicopter and a fixed wing aircraft from park headquarters that evening. At least one grizzly bear was still at the site, although there may have been multiple bears. The bear, or bears, moved away when the helicopter approached and landed. Two rangers on board the helicopter got out and confirmed the location of the victim’s remains.
After a short time a bear returned to the cache site while the rangers were investigating the scene, forcing the rangers to retreat to the gravel bar. The bear then began to circle around them. Rangers fired two rifle shots at the bear, but the bear was not hit. The rangers were able to leave by helicopter as darkness was setting in.
Evidence indicates that the attack occurred close to the river’s open braided gravel bar, and the bear subsequently dragged the remains to a more secluded, brushy cache site.
Rangers recommend visitors stay at least 300 yards away from bears. Rangers said White was about 50 yards away from the grizzly when the mauling took place.
After conducting an initial surveillance of the site, the rangers determined that the recovery of the remains would need to wait until daylight on Saturday due to the presence of bears and the waning light.
All backpackers in the park receive mandatory ‘Bear Aware’ training prior to receiving a backcountry permit, including a 30-minute safety video, a safety briefing from the backcountry ranger staff, and all backpackers are required to carry a Bear Resistant Food Container (BRFC).
Denali National Park and Preserve is home to both black bears and grizzly bears.