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Contact: Jan Maslen, 9078227206
Copper Center, AK — Austin Pfeiffer, 22, of Ohio was killed by a grizzly bear in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve late Sunday, Sept. 20 during a moose hunting trip. This is the first recorded fatal bear attack in the park since it was established in 1980. The park and preserve is over 13 million acres in size and the incident occurred in a remote area approximately 50 air-miles from the nearest community of Northway, Alaska and 130 miles from park headquarters.
The attack occurred near the Cottonwood Creek drainage, an area of mixed tundra and forest lands with dense vegetation, while the hunting party was salvaging meat from a moose harvested the day before. The National Park Service (NPS) investigation determined this was a surprise attack and that a defensive firearm or other deterrent, like bear spray, was not readily available to the victim.
The NPS was notified about the incident at approximately 7:30 p.m. Sept. 20. Through coordination with a local air taxi service used by the hunters, the NPS ensured the site was secure and that the victim’s hunting partner was safely evacuated from the area. The following day, the NPS coordinated with Alaska Wildlife Troopers (AWT) to recover the victim’s body, which was transported to the Alaska State Medical Examiner’s office in Anchorage, Alaska.
Park rangers found no evidence that the bear remains in the area, and no other park visitors are known to be in the immediate vicinity of the incident location. The site is extremely remote, but park rangers will continue to monitor the area for bear activity. All meat from the moose was salvaged as required by state of Alaska hunting regulations.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve was established under Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) and provides sport hunting opportunities on its preserve lands. Visitors, including hunters, are encouraged to be Bear Aware in the backcountry and take precautions such as carrying bear spray and using Bear Resistant Food Containers (BRFC). We also encourage hunters to read Bear Safety for Hunters at the ADF&G website: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=hunting.bearsafety
The NPS worked in close coordination with the AWT throughout the incident.
Last updated: September 24, 2020