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Contact: Maureen McLaughlin, (907) 733-9103
6Denali National Park and Preserve personnel shot an aggressive black bear in a remote section of the Denali National Park additions on the night of July 4, 2008. The black bear had threatened the life and safety of three park employees in an area along the McKinley River approximately 20 miles northwest of Wonder Lake.
A research team consisting of three seasonal NPS biological technicians was conducting a botany field study along the remote river bar when a sub-adult black bear approached their field camp at 11:15 p.m. on July 4. The team responded with aversive action including yelling, arm-waving, and throwing objects at the bear. After initially being chased off into dense brush, the bear circled back to the camp three or four times, and at one point, the animal clawed and destroyed one of the team’s tents. On its final approach to the camp, the black bear aggressively charged the three researchers, hissing and pouncing at the ground. An attempt to divert the bear with pepper spray was ineffective.
In accordance with policy set forth in the park’s Bear-Human Conflict Management Plan, one of the researchers made the decision to shoot the bear when it charged within 20 feet of the team and posed immediate hazard to human safety. The employee, who was qualified and authorized by the National Park Service to carry and use firearms in the park, hit the bear in its mid-section with a 12-gauge shotgun slug. Despite considerable blood loss, the wounded bear moved into dense vegetation and out of view.
The three employees immediately notified Denali’s Communication Center via park radio. The following morning, the park wildlife biologist, along with two Law Enforcement rangers and one backcountry ranger, were flown to the camp in a park helicopter to investigate the situation and take further action if necessary. The group tracked the blood trail for 200 meters, but thereafter they were unable to locate the wounded bear in the dense brush. Both the helicopter and a fixed wing aircraft searched from the air, but spotters were similarly unable to locate the bear.
In light of the remoteness of the incident and the amount of blood loss to the bear, park officials consider there to be little, if any, ongoing hazard to human life. Park management has issued a backcountry closure for the area in question, a remote unit that sees very limited visitor activity. Further investigation into the incident is ongoing.