Forty-nine-year-old Richard White of San Diego, California, was attacked and killed by a grizzly bear in Denali National Park last Friday. Officials believe he strayed too close to the animal while taking photographs, prompting the bear to strike. It was the first such fatal bear attack in the history of the park.
Rangers first became aware that something was amiss when three other hikers discovered White’s camera and backpack close to the scene of the attack. Upon telling park officials about their grim findings, a search party was organized to go looking for the victim. White’s remains were discovered where the bear had stashed them in the brush about 150 yards from the scene of the struggle.
Prior to the deadly encounter, White had spent the previous three days hiking and camping alone in the Alaskan backcountry. Denali is well known for its remote and pristine settings, which makes it a popular destination for experienced outdoor enthusiasts. There were no other backpackers in the area at the time of the attack but as a precaution the National Park Service has shut down the area for the foreseeable future.
Yesterday, park officials reviewed the photographs found on White’s camera, which seem to indicate that he was between 50 and 100 yards from the bear when the images were taken. The Park Service recommends that visitors stay at least 300 yards away from grizzly bears at all times so as to not frighten or alarm the creature. Generally, they tend to be shy and non-confrontational but when startled they can become aggressive.
This story, while sad, is a good reminder that when we visit the wild places of our planet, there are still plenty of creatures that can attack and kill us. Having a healthy respect for their territory, not to mention their wild nature, is always the safest way to proceed when encountering these animals. Sometimes we are lulled into a false sense of security when traveling through these idyllic places but dangerous animals should never be taken lightly no matter the setting.
[Photo Credit: Kent Miller]