First fatal bear mauling in history of Denali National Park

Photo credit: Marshmallow

A grizzly attacked and killed a lone backpacker in Denali National Park and Preserve on Friday after the man encountered the bear next to a river and lingered there snapping pictures, according to the National Park Service.

The death is the first fatal bear mauling in Alaska in seven years and the only one in the 6-million-acre park’s recorded history, going back more than 90 years, the Park Service said.

“It’s an extremely rare event, and it’s not common that we even have injuries related to bears,” said park spokeswoman Maureen McLaughlin. “We don’t see a lot, and we think some of that is due to our education.”

But the man — identified late Saturday as 49-year-old San Diego, Calif., resident Richard White — apparently ignored key parts of that education, which the Park Service says he received prior to heading into the Denali wilderness, in part of the park where there are no trails. Photos on White’s camera showed he stayed near the bear, instead of leaving the area, as required by his permit, park officials said.

Alaska Wildlife Troopers assisting park rangers shot a large male grizzly Saturday believed to have killed White and cached his body the day before, the Park Service said. The rangers had been unable to recover White’s remains for more than 24 hours, but retrieved him late Saturday, a park spokeswoman said.

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