Hiker Shoots Grizzly Bear in Denali

New law allowing guns in National Parks has its first casualty

Grizzly bear shot killed in Denali National Park.
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner





  1. Virginia Avatar

    Well, I see the first fatality of this wonderful decision to allow guns in our national parks is a grizzly. The man pulled the gun out and fired without any aggression on the part of the bear. Should be a great summer for the bears!

  2. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    I would really hope that we could wait until the full investigation is complete..I know I have not seen the final report from the investigative team, has anyone else?

  3. MJ Graham Avatar

    Does not seem like there were other witnesses so not sure what further investigation will find. And, what a ridiculous law. You can take loaded guns into the parks but it is still illegal to fire them. Only the U.S. Congress in kowtowing to political pressure could waste the taxpayers money so easily on such inane legislation.

    1. Save bears Avatar
      Save bears

      There is still an ongoing investigation and the final report has not been released. Believe me, the investigators are pretty good if they want to be.

      As far as the carry, but no discharge policy, I have heard from many attorneys that it will not stand up in court and this could become a test case..

      I suspect that this new law could end up going to the supreme court eventually. I believe Obama signed it, knowing that would eventually happen, and did so, because he didn’t want to gut the credit card law that this was attached to.

    2. Elk275 Avatar

      If this case is prosecuted it will be in Fairbanks. Unless there is a very clear cut case of misuse of a firearm during a bear attach, the jury will hang or find them innocent. Remember people in the Fairbanks area have different ideas than people on this forum; it would be a waste of time for prosecution.

      The defence lawyer would only have to bring up the wolf attach in March on the teacher, and have several people who were mauled by grizzlies testify.

  4. mountain man Avatar
    mountain man

    Virginia, the article I read said they were charged at, they didn’t hide anything, and I think it said a woman fired the shots (I haven’t heard of to many woman poachers). I’m confused why you make statements like you just made?

  5. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Here is the link to the Denali Press Release


    They state in the press release that it was the man that fired.

  6. Linda Hunter Avatar

    Save bears is right ..we can speculate all we want on an investigation that is not complete but it does little good. I hope this goes to court and I sure wish there had been a tracker to call to aide in the investigation.

  7. mountain man Avatar
    mountain man

    Thanks for the link. The way I read the article above sounded like a woman fired a shot. Doesn’t matter. The bear is dead and those people sound like they were lucky to get out unscaved. Thank goodness.

  8. Kropotkin Man Avatar
    Kropotkin Man

    Here’s the current NPS statement:

    Grizzly Bear Shot By Backpackers

    By Kris Fister, Public Affairs Officer
    June 01, 2010

    Two backpackers, a man and woman, encountered a grizzly bear last Friday evening while hiking in the dense brush along the edge of Tattler Creek, which is at the west end of Igloo Canyon, approximately 35 miles from park headquarters. The man, who was in the lead, drew a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol when they heard a noise coming from the brush. When the bear emerged from the thicket and ran toward the other hiker, he fired approximately nine rounds in its general direction. The bear stopped, turned, and walked back into the brush, where it quickly disappeared from view. The backpackers ran and hiked approximately a mile and a half back to the road, where they encountered a National Park Service employee who called in the incident to the park’s communication center and transported them to the Toklat Road Camp. A ranger there did a short preliminary interview with them around 10 p.m. Because of the concern that a wounded bear was in the area, four backcountry units were immediately closed and bus drivers were instructed to not drop off day hikers in Igloo Canyon on Saturday. Early Saturday morning, rangers and wildlife technicians flew to Toklat via helicopter to conduct a secondary interview with the two backpackers. Afterwards they flew over Tattler Creek and all of side tributaries, very low at times, to determine if there was an active, wounded bear. No bears were seen during the overflight. Late in the afternoon, three rangers hiked into the site and found the bear dead in a willow thicket approximately 100 feet from the pistol casings. The bear’s body was transported via helicopter to a landing site on the park road and brought back to headquarters on Sunday, where park wildlife biologists are assisting with the investigation of the bear carcass. The backcountry units have been reopened. The case is still under investigation, and the names of the backpackers are not being released at this time. Park wildlife biologists and rangers are trying to determine if there was a justification for shooting the animal. It is legal to carry a firearm in the former Mt. McKinley National Park portion of the park, but it is not legal to discharge it. This is the first known instance of a grizzly bear being shot by a visitor in the wilderness portion of the park. The estimated grizzly bear population in the park north of the Alaska Range north is 300 to 350 animals.

  9. Angela Avatar

    Do only us dopey white people go hiking into dense brush in grizzly country? (I’m not pointing fingers; I surprised a black bear (and vice versa) in dense brush while walking a transect in a roadless area of the Tongass.)

    In other words, did First Nations people avoid such places knowing they were at risk of surprising a grizzly? I know that some tribes had great respect for bears and wouldn’t even talk about them directly. Were they often victims of bear attacks because there were more bears back then and people lived closer to nature, or do indigenous people learn early on how to avoid places where they might cross paths with dangerous animals? We know they didn’t have to travel long distances by bus to get the chance to see a bear, which may make a big difference.

  10. SEAK Mossback Avatar
    SEAK Mossback

    Save bears –
    You may be right about the no-discharge rule standing up in court. I seem to remember hearing about an incident in Yellowstone in the 1960s or 70s when a tourist shot a bear near the road in the park, I think right near his campsite along a road. Probably reached in his vehicle for the gun. He said it stood up and looked at him. He was prosecuted but ultimately let off – ultimately he convinced a judge he was justified in being scared and that was enough to overturn the whole tradition of no guns allowed out of a vehicle and loaded and certainly no discharge.

    1. Elk275 Avatar

      He shot it with a 357.

  11. Elk275 Avatar

    Regarding guns in national parks, I guess it is even too dangerous to watch Old Faithful go off anymore. The link is very interesting, how many times have I put myself in the situation that these people endured.


    1. Angela Avatar

      I have a fear of lightning and here is another good reason to do so.

  12. Ryan Avatar

    The Alaska troopers are very hard on this type of thing, and if there is any hint of wrong doing they will prosecute. AK has a very hard stance on bear kills in defense of life and property.

  13. Linda Hunter Avatar

    Angela to answer your question . . people who live on the land like Native Americans can hear and interpret what it is that they heard as well as notice things like turned over leaves, broken sticks, rocks that have been displaced and delicate compressions made by bear paws. I don’t have facts but I suspect that it made them much more aware of where bears are and what those bears were doing than the normal modern hikers who may be conditioned by modern life not to pay attention to the details that make a person safe in the wild. I haven’t surprised a bear in years even though I track them as often as I can. I have instead skirted their day beds, retreated from their meals and given traveling bears the trail when necessary. Modern hikers move with a goal in mind almost at a military pace and the animals just don’t move that way. That said, heaven help us if we have to legislate the way people walk but it is my hope that people who go into bear country will be interested enough to learn a little more about what to pay attention to and prevent even having to make a choice of whether to shoot or not. Silly me huh?

  14. Paul White Avatar
    Paul White

    Linda; I strongly suspect you’re correct. I don’t live in bear country anymore, but I still go hiking with an eye towards finding wildlife…it’s amazing how many people I’ll see pass right by a snake or box turtle or lizard or small mammal without even realizing it’s there, right under their nose. If they can’t even see an animal a foot away how are they going to notice signs? If they don’t hear that small critter moving through the grass, are they going to notice twigs snapping or rustling? Or realize what they’re looking at when they see a bed-down area for deer or elk?

  15. Sal_N Avatar

    Once again a hiker is able to draw and fire a gun at a grizzly faster than or instead of using bear spray.

    The law gives people the right to carry guns, in my opinion it is a false sense of security that worked out well from the hikers point of view THIS TIME.

    I think this event may give permissions to more people to carry guns in Glacier, Yellowstone, Yosemite etc… and we will read about more events like this one or maybe worse. The shooter misses and……. the bear gets killed for attacking the hiker.

    It will be interesting to see how we deal with this in CA.
    We have too many looney bins with guns in the cities, state forests and now National Parks.
    Handguns in death valley anyone? You know those moving rocks can really hurt you.

  16. Virginia Avatar

    There was no mention as to whether or not these hikers were carrying bear spray. It should be mandatory in bear country! As I said before, it should be a great summer for wildlife in national parks! What on earth was Obama thinking (or not) when he signed this law allowing every gun-totting idiot in a national park to “defend” themselves.

    1. Save bears Avatar
      Save bears

      Without line item veto powers, he had no choice, he didn’t want to loose the credit card reform.

    2. Alan Avatar

      Send the bill back to Congress and insist on a “clean” version. Problem was he had a self imposed “deadline”. Obama’s other problem is that he tries to please too many people. If you try and make everybody happy, you make no one happy. The heck with the opposition. When you are in power, you are in power. That’s politics. That’s what keeps things balanced in the long run. If the opposition can stop you, fine. If not tough, like health care….finally. If voters don’t like it they will voice their opinions at the ballot box, but you have to stand up for your principles. All the highly toted Credit Card Reform Act has done, anyway, is make credit card companies more creative in how they rip us all off.

    3. Save bears Avatar
      Save bears


      It really don’t matter, that was one of his priorities, and he signed on the dotted line, and I suspect with everything else going on, we are not going to see it come up again or a long time..

  17. Nancy Avatar

    Speaking of guns, something I ran across in the little, online local rag today (southwest Montana) I’ve read it three times and I’m still trying to put the author’s message into perspective:

    Liberty Convention 2010

    By Pat Williams

    Those people who attended the Liberty Convention 2010 surely understand that Americans are wallowing in a free society.After all, their definition of freedom seems to be access to guns and we have guns galore: guns under our beds, under our pillows, on the back windows of our pickups.Guns, guns everywhere.Forty-four million Americans own 215 million guns. We have 65 million handguns, seemingly the wearing apparel of the day for more than a few who attended the Liberty Convention a week or so ago in Missoula, Mont.

    The convention fired a blank. At times it seemed there were more speakers than attendees.The convention promoters expected a crown of 5,000, but only 250 showed up in the cavernous Adams Center on the University of Montana campus.The promoter noted that the embarrassing turnout was because they only “had 98 days” to organize the convention.Ninety-eight days? Why one could randomly select a freshman student from the UM campus and that kid could get 250 people to a protest rally in 98 minutes.

    The convention’s right-wing speakers likened Pres. Obama to Adolph Hitler and America to Nazi Germany, exhorted people to act like vigilantes, referred to “jerk cops,” promoted guns on college campuses and everywhere were shouts and murmurs of “socialism”—the new ammunition of choice for the far right now that
    communism is dead.

    But the real passion of those at the Liberty Convention is guns and the right to own them, fire them, show them off. Given the easy access to guns in America one would expect that these conventioneers would be a happy lot rather than dour-face complainers.

    Our nation has the most guns of any country—350 million.Of that number, 215 million are owned by individual citizens and the remainder by our military and law enforcement.We have more guns than any other country and our modest gun control laws are the least restrictive of any western democracy.

    Guns are second only to cars as cause of death. During just one year not long ago 34,000 Americans were killed with a gun and that year the costs of the emergency care and overall treatment for the dying and wounded was 1.2 billion dollars.

    I believe I have the credentials for this criticism. During my nine terms of service in the U.S. House of Representatives, I had a 100 percent voting record against gun control. The NRA once featured me on the cover of their national magazine. My position was occasioned by my belief in private rights and the necessity of trust—two-way trust—between people and our government.I consistently voted against gun control because it isn’t the way to stop crime. This crowd makes one wonder if I was right.

    The Liberty Convention 2010 was anathema to trust. Those angry, conspiratorial people are a dangerous minority within a minority in both this state and this nation.

    Pat Williams served nine terms as a U.S. Representative from Montana.After his retirement, he returned to Montana and is teaching at The University of Montana

  18. jon Avatar

    Guns are second only to cars as cause of death. During just one year not long ago 34,000 Americans were killed with a gun and that year the costs of the emergency care and overall treatment for the dying and wounded was 1.2 billion dollars.

  19. Nancy Avatar

    Yeah but Jon, and I quote the author: I consistently voted against gun control because it isn’t the way to stop crime. This crowd makes one wonder if I was right.

    1. jon Avatar

      You are absolutely right. Gun control does not work because criminals will get guns illegally. reason why I posted that is because a few days ago I was telling sb that guns kill more people than poison and he kept telling me that poison does. I posted a link from the cdc that had a chart on what killed more children firearms or poison and the chart clearly showed throughout the years that firearms were responsible for killing more children than poison only until recently.

    1. Save bears Avatar
      Save bears


      Was it not you, that LOL me the other night because I was using the CDC for my position?

    2. jon Avatar

      Yes, it was me. You considered the cdc to be a good source while I didn’t. If I posted any other source, I knew you were going to claim that my source is biased which you infact did, so I took a page from your book and pulled some info from the cdc and wha laa, I found what I was looking for.

    3. Save bears Avatar
      Save bears

      Okay Jon, okay…

      Ralph, do you really want this to continue?

  20. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I wish people wouldn’t argue gun rights and gun control on this blog.

    It is a useless argument. No one changes their mind on this subject. It just stirs up heat.

    1. jon Avatar

      Very true Ralph.

    2. Save bears Avatar
      Save bears

      I agree 100% Ralph, unfortunately, it continues when inaccurate information is posted, there are some of us that are going to counter it..

  21. Nancy Avatar

    Sorry Ralph, new to the old arguements that have probably circulated here but, they all seem to come back to the ease and the choice when it comes to killing people or wildlife, by humans.


Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

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