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Grizzly bear kills hiker in Denali National Park

Posted: August 26, 2012 - 12:07am

ANCHORAGE — A grizzly bear has killed a hiker at Denali National Park — the first fatal attack in the park’s history, officials said Saturday.

Denali Park officials said the hiker was backpacking alone along the Toklat River on Friday afternoon when the attack happened. A wallet was found near the site of the attack with probable identification. However, next of kin have not been notified and the hiker’s identification has not been released.

Officials said this attack was the first known fatal mauling in the park’s history.

Rangers are due back at the site Saturday to retrieve the hiker’s remains and attempt to locate the predatory bear. About 12 bears leave in the area, officials said.

“There are bears that have been at the site. We need to get them out of there before we get to the remains,” said Denali spokeswoman Maureen McLaughlin.

A camera was found near the kill site and rangers hope it can help them identify the bear that attacked the hiker, McLaughlin added.

Officials learned of the attack after three day hikers stumbled upon an abandoned backpack along the river about three miles from a rest area on Friday afternoon. The hikers also spotted torn clothing and blood. They immediately hiked back and alerted staff park.

Rangers were dispatched on a helicopter and were able to identify the site of the attack by Friday evening. When they arrived, one bear was at the site, although multiple bears could have been there, officials said.

With bears in the area and waning light, the rangers decided to return Saturday to recover the remains.

“Initial evidence indicates that the attack occurred proximate to the river’s open braided gravel bar, although the bear subsequently dragged the remains to a more secluded, brushy cache site,” the park’s release said.

Park officials said they don’t believe other registered backpackers are in the immediate area. An emergency closure on that part of the park has been placed.

All backpackers in the park receive mandatory bear awareness training prior to receive a permit.

Denali is located 240 miles north of Anchorage. It spans more than 6 million acres and is home to numerous wild animals, including bears, wolves, caribou and moose.

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