Amazing this is the first known instance of a griz killing a human in the vast bear-filled national park-

A grizzly bear has killed a lone hiker (Richard White, San Diego, age 49) on the Toklat River in Denali National Park, Alaska. There are many similar news stories today how it is the first such instance in that national park, which is 3 times the size of Yellowstone NP.  Because there are so many grizzlies in Denali, this lack of mortality is quite amazing.

When it came, the circumstances as we known them do not seem surprising.  A lone hiker in an area that had at least 12 bears saw a grizzly grazing in the willows. When he got to 50 yards of the non-aggressive appearing bear after 8 minutes of videoing it, the bear suddenly attacked and killed him. It dragged his body to a more secluded spot (to eat him?).

Some time later, because other hikers found evidence of the event and hiked out, rangers spotted a grizzly near the body. They shot the bear from the air.  Analysis of the bear’s stomach contents says they shot the correct bear.

Here is a recent update on the incident from the LA Times. San Diego photographer killed by bear at Denali National Park. By Shelbe Grad. LA Times.

About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan's Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of "Hiking Idaho." He also wrote "Beyond the Tetons" and "Backpacking Wyoming's Teton and Washakie Wilderness." He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

79 Responses to Lone hiker videoing up close to a Denali grizzly is killed by the bear

  1. I am dubious about this being the first person killed by a bear in the park.
    When I was in Denali about 25 years ago, I was told that a woman had been killed in the campgound I was staying in a few years previously.

  2. Salle says:

    This is one of those instances where the bear should not be killed. People should be responsible for their stupidity with their lives. With that as a primary maxim there certainly would be a lot less stupidity in the world.

    If you think the rules don’t apply to you, the consequences should be the lesson learned, a “teachable moment”. Whether you survive or not should’nt be the deciding factor as to the fate of the animal. If you chose to enter someone’s home, you should be respectful of their “house rules”. Bears don’t live by human constructed rules, but sure as hell end up dying from them… which is a shame that humans should suffer, not the bears.

    • Savebears says:


      Should those house rules apply in instances of wildlife entering and killing animals on private property? Just wondering, seems private property should have their house rules as well.

      • Salle says:

        Let me ask you this, who was there first? The wildlife or the private property folks?

        • Savebears says:


          At this point in time, that question really does not matter, people owe property, that is the way our world works now a days, and we are not going to be going back to the past anytime soon.

          • Salle says:

            Then I’ll refer you to Nancy’s comment which is as good as any I might offer and I’m sure you’d rather interact with her anyway since I’m not allowed to have nay thoughts of my own without umpteen citations on this blog… according to some.

            • Savebears says:


              Despite the differences you and I have, I do read every single comment you post. I enjoy interacting with you as much as I do anyone on this blog, agreement is not the best thing, it stimulates all of us to think differently.

    • Wm Bova says:

      National Parks are more stringent when it comes to putting down a bear that may have been involved with predation of a human. There were multiple bears in the area, so whether this bear was the culprit on the original mauling will never be known. The dead bear was a large boar and could have taken over the kill or attacked from the brush while he was filming the other bear. Anytime they can identify a bear that has consumed a human they will put it down. This is protocol to protect future visitors.

      Since this is National Park Service, there will be an official report that the public can read in a month or two. At that time more will be known of the condition of the dead bear on whether it had been in a recent fight or just been an old bear that could no longer compete. These are logical reasons for predation, but other times it’s just a bear establishing his alpha right to a kill as other bears approach.

    • jon says:

      Regardless of the reason, I don’t believe the bear should be killed. How many grizzlies do hunters kill? Quite a few.

    • Ellen says:

      Salle – Agreed, the man was responsible for his own death due to his behavior; he ignored all the rules about how to behave around grizzles. Unfortunately, the bear had to be killed. The reason the bear was shot was because it now identified humans as a food source. It dragged the body 150 yards, ate a lot of the remains, buried (cached) the remains and sat on them, not allowing any other human or animal to approach. The park couldn’t allow the animal to live, endangering the many people who hike in Denali. I, too am sorry that the bear had to be killed because of one man’s stupidity. But, having identified humans as prey, and knowing how easy it is to kill a human, it was now even more dangerous than most bears, and it had to be killed.

      • Salle says:


        Glad you agree one the one point but I respectfully disagree with your second point. I think any real respect for wildlife includes the understanding that they are what they are and should one choose to go out and explore in their habitat, it should be anticipated that a “pas t your own risk” policy should prevail regardless of whether an animal performed a predatory/consummation act upon a human or not. Animals are “beings” too. We mistakenly glorify the killing of animals but it is unholy for them to do the same, even though they don’t glorify the killing, they only do it because they felt threatened or hungry. For those who are religious, it’s what god created them to do, otherwise they would drive cars and have jobs too. Humans were food for these animals for eons before humans found out how to produce killing machines for fun and profit.

        I disagree that the bear “had to be killed” because it ate somebody. We do that all the time with impunity, in fact, we’ve created industrial complexes out of the practice with offshoot industries and everything, but one bear kills and eats a stupid human and it’s just the worst thing that ever happened in history of god and creation. I don’t buy it, never will. Sanitizing the natural world for the convenience of humans is ludicrous and is the main reason we have environmental crash and extinction events taking place all around us and it’s quite evident to those of us who are not blinded by the TeeVee disinformation society.

        • jon says:

          A bear kills a person and that bear is killed yet we have people who kill bears every year with their guns and arrows and nothing happens to them. What a weird and strange world we live in. We can’t have bears killing and eating people, but it’s perfectly ok for humans to kill bears and sometimes eat them right?

          • Salle says:

            “We can’t have bears killing and eating people, but it’s perfectly ok for humans to kill bears and sometimes eat them right?”

            Seems to be the prevailing concept.

  3. WM says:

    Don’t know exactly where this happened in the Toklat River drainage, other than it appears to be in an area of expansive braided channel, a bunch of willows, and not much other vegetation to conceal photographer or bears (according to the NPS news release).

    But “Toklat” grizzlies (some renowned for their light blondish color) have been photographed for decades at relatively close distances around there. I saw a film done by wildlife photographers, whose names I cannot recall, over forty-five years ago, showing a comical side to these “Toklats”, scratching their butts on trees and rocks, or laying on their backs rolling around, cubs on bellies, and all the cute stuff.

    Apparently this boar decided there was something not to like in this photographer, getting too close, and/or maybe a little fresh meat struck him as a change from berries and fish.

    More on this apparently preventable incident:

    ++Prior to receiving a permit to hike in the area, all backpackers in the park receive mandatory bear awareness training that teaches them to stay at least a quarter-mile away from bears, and to slowly back away if they find themselves any closer. Investigators confirmed that the hiker had received that training.++

    Stupid is as stupid does – this time another dead grizzly bear as collateral damage. The legacy of Tim Treadwell type personality (or urbanite without a clue) lives on.

    • Savebears says:


      I agree, I am not for killing the bear, this person screwed up as did Treadwell and it cost the persons life, it is very unfortunate, that we humans, don’t seem to be able to learn from others stupidity.. It reminds me of the old story, tell them its hot and be damned they are going to put their hand on the burner to make sure!

      • Salle says:

        Another winner of the ubiquitous Darwin Award. Although, for the humans species, not ubiquitous enough.

      • Nancy says:

        My sympathies to this guy’s family but even more dismayed for this bear that paid the price for human ignorance.

        But can the parks (set aside for wildlife) say it enough, short of banning humans, when it comes to getting alittle to close to wildlife?

        “Should those house rules apply in instances of wildlife entering and killing animals on private property? Just wondering, seems private property should have their house rules as well”

        SB – not answering for Salle here but we humans are suppose to be the intelligent ones out of all the other species on the planet or atleast thats what I’ve heard 🙂

        If you decide to raise things (livestock, vegetables, etc.) especially for profit, doesn’t it make more sense to understand and accept the fact that wildlife has no concept of what “private property” rights or house rules are?

        I spent part of today putting up hardwire (in addition to the 1 inch chicken wire already there) around my new outdoor chicken pen because I live in an area where predators roam – Hawks, eagles, foxes, skunks and coyotes.

        The hardwire though is for the occasional weasel, they have a tendency to show up come wintertime.

        I enjoy my chickens, I make a small profit selling their fresh egss so hey, MY responsibility is to keep them safe, even on my own private property, if I want to make a profit.

        Or, I could just let them run “free” tally up, blame and then claim losses (like the “bigger” livestock producers have a way of doing) to predators.

  4. TC says:

    Yes, they should have killed this bear. This bear learned humans are tasty. That made it a dangerous bear, even for someone who is bear savvy and takes all of the right precautions. That includes all of you judgmental people. This bear may (or may not) have happily killed and eaten someone like you in your sleep, or on a trail, or while fishing, or just while standing around contemplating how egregious, useless, and worthless all human beings are (excepting your wonderful selves). Seriosly people, get off the high horse and try to give a damn about your fellow humans – likely this man had a family and friends that miss him; he may even have had children or grandchildren that needed him. He may have contributed to society, he may have been an advocate for wild places, he may have been anything. It sounds like he made a mistake, and it cost him his life. When nobody wins, nobody wins, but enough with the caustic “Darwin award” type comments – you people have lost your humanity, and it’s pretty ugly.

    • Nancy says:

      “It sounds like he made a mistake, and it cost him his life”

      Bravo TC. Atleast you got that fact right. Middle of nowhere, stalking wild things, bad things might and do, happen.

    • Salle says:

      Indeed, this guy my have had family, and he might have taken that into account when he chose to wait for the bear to get too close. Chances are, it was the bear he was watching, but there could be other alternative scenarios. The guy got mauled to death all the same, while he was alone in known bear habitat.

      I don’t think I am wonderful because I am human, in fact, I lament that I came into this world as one… especially when I see what humans do and how they treat each other and all other life on the planet. Not riding a high horse here, though I’m sure someone will be demanding some citation to show them what I’m talking about before long.

      This society has made a point of promoting it’s “high-horse” exceptionalism over all other species to the point that the antiseptic expectations of safety in the wild and anywhere else is a danger unto itself (this society that is). Sure, the guy made a mistake and paid for it, and probably cost his family a great deal as well. But the bear did what bears will do, and they don’t read trail signs or make up rules and invisible boundaries that enclose and restrict them to certain areas that humans have decided now belong to humans.

      You can belittle me as much as is your pleasure about what I think but I ask you to think about how this society treats all the wildlife out there, what’s left that is, and then think about what is left of their habitat that we treat like a zoo, and for some like Disneyland… and for others, like a place where they can make money if they can get rid of the wildlife.

      I’ve lost my sympathy for folks who go to wilderness parks and such and expect that the folks who warned them about the dangers they may encounter were just talking out their behinds and that whatever rules there are don’t apply because nobody is watching. Maybe he had annoyed the bear to get it to look at him so he could get a “really cool shot” of it.

      Like I said above: if people paid for their stupidity with their lives, there would be fewer stupid people around to mess things up as they so often do. If a bear acquires a taste for humans, then the humans should watch out and stay out of the bear’s way. It’s not like there’s hardly enough humans to go around… hell, before too far into the near future, we may be finding that we will have to acquire a taste for humans too, those of us who eat meat that is. Humans are made out of meat after all, and bears like to eat that sometimes and they aren’t as picky as we are.

      I’m upset that the bear was killed for this guy’s mistake, whomever he was. Bad deal for his family and loved ones but it is what it is… with a bad outcome all the way around.

    • jon says:

      Bears can’t eat people, but humans can eat bears. Where’s the logic in that? I feel bad that this bear was killed. Human ignorance kills a lot of bears. It’s very tragic.

    • Ida Lupine says:

      This bear learned humans are tasty.

      Somehow I doubt that – I think we might even be detrimental to his health, what with all of the drugs human take (legal and otherwise), junk we eat, etc. I think we would be decidedly unhealthy for him and make him sick.

      Just because a lot of us feel badly that an animal has to be put down yet again for the dumb mistakes of humans, doesn’t mean we don’t feel for this person and his family or have lost our humanity. I think the human race lost its humanity long ago, about the time of WWII Europe, and we continue to be our own worst enemy, as well as everything else’s on the planet.

      • Ida Lupine says:

        Also, I should add that I think in our modern world a lot of people have such a disconnect with the natural world that they don’t deeply realize that they are not at the zoo or Disneyland where they have protection – these animals are very powerful, wild and dangerous. They have lost any healthy fear of animals. I have a very healthy respect for grizzlies and would be too frightened to get anywhere near one, nor would I want my actions to cause harm to any wild animal.

        • Mike says:

          ++Also, I should add that I think in our modern world a lot of people have such a disconnect with the natural world that they don’t deeply realize that they are not at the zoo or Disneyland where they have protection – these animals are very powerful, wild and dangerous. ++

          I agree. All these fall hunter/grizzly interactions are disturbing.

          Hopefully hunters can get smarter about bears, and hunting can be limited in places with grizzly bears.

          • Ryan says:

            It was a backpacker, not every grizzly encounter that ends badly involves a hunter.

      • jon says:

        There is a myth out there that leads some people to think that if a bear or any other wild animal eats a human once, it will do it again. I don’t believe this myth. I think the bear had an opportunity to kill a person and it did for whatever reason. Just because a wild animal kills one person, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to start killing many more. I think everyone cares about the person that gets killed by a bear or any other wild animal, but we also care for the voiceless animals that are constantly killed because of human ignorance. Sometimes it makes more sense to feel sadder for the voiceless animal who can’t speak.

        • WM says:


          ++There is a myth out there that leads some people to think that if a bear or any other wild animal eats a human once, it will do it again…++

          What makes you think this is a myth, with grizzlies, jon? The bear that killed Treadwell and girlfriend had fed on both. It appears, had rangers not killed it when it approached them, they might also have been part of a food cache, too.

          Let’s now address the “other wild animal” part of your statement. From the Chicago Field Museum, the narrative about the Tsavo lions, which ate something like 35 people.

          You also need to read a couple of tiger and leopard hunter, Jim Corbett’s books from his experiences in India in the 1920’s.

          Hunger and opportunity (large carnivore and human) apparently can be a deadly combination, and not so much of a myth as you believe.

    • WM says:


      ++Seriosly people, get off the high horse and try to give a damn about your fellow humans…++

      Not sure whether you included me in those you chastise. Based on facts known so far, the guy managed known risk poorly.

      Because of his personal choice to eggregeously violate Park rules, which are designed to prevent this sort of thing, he died; hikers who found his bloody attack site had a bad experience; the Park had to muster resources to kill the bear; the bear died; the family and friends will want and grieve for years; and, if he had contributions to make to society those will be forgone forever- all because he apparently managed known risk poorly.

      I don’t think anyone finds anything here but a lose – lose scenario,… with a moral that some will not heed in the future.

      A side effect will likely be more folks carrying firearms (in lieu of bear spray), and more grizzly bears in AK and the lower 48 will die.

  5. RobertR says:

    I am sure glad I live in this one horse town and understand the real world of the outdoors.
    I could loose my life tomorrow driving down the road and hit a deer, elk or a moose. Should I blame myself or should I blame land owners who don’t allow hunting to maange these animals.
    The are to many that make look like it’s acceptable to get close to wildlife and some have paid with there life or have been badly injured, Treadwell is a good example

    • Mark L says:

      I agree. To me it seems to be a human ego problem, kind of like saying “those silly park rules don’t apply to me because I’m special (talented, great photographer, in touch with nature, ‘know’ the bears, etc.) and I want this experience SO BAD I’ll risk everything.” Why? Why can’t some people be happy unless they intrude on other’s space egotistically? Weird and unfortunate.

    • Mark L says:

      I agree. To me it seems to be a human ego problem, kind of like saying “those silly park rules don’t apply to me because I’m special (talented, great photographer, in touch with nature, ‘know’ the bears, etc.) and I want this experience SO BAD I’ll risk everything.” Why? Why can’t some people be happy unless they intrude on other’s space egotistically? Weird and unfortunate…

  6. Wm Bova says:

    It is what it is folks. Wrong place, wrong time, wrong bear. This will happen till the sun don’t shine as there are too many variables to pick and choose destiny. Just accept it and move on, as there will be other bear/people conflicts that are unavoidable as long as we share the same planet.

    For those who feel sorry for the bear, I understand but till there are no more lawyers, litigation, and people who sue at the drop of a hat…….bears that fall into the protocols of “problem bears” will be put down.

  7. elk275 says:

    Folks this is just one bear killed in Denali National Park that attacked and killed a human and the bear was killed. Three to five times a week in the summer months a grizzly is killed in defense of life and property (DLP) in Alaska. I would not make to big a deal out of this isolated incident in Denali National Park. Outside of the Park is hunting district 20, the limit is 1 grizzly a year. There are plenty of grizzlies; I do not like to see in this case either the bear or person killed. Grizzly Bears are not saints and in two weeks the fall season will begain outside of the park.

    • We live very much in the Post-Treadwell Era and I continue marvel at the impact he ultimately had on people’s view of brown/grizzly bears —-exposing them as highly dangerous and homicidal. The wildlife enthusiasts who before were smitten have found religion and heap copious scorn on those among their ranks who appear to take risks. Treadwell’s ultimate sacrifice, in the public mind, managed to invalidate every observation he ever made — making him the complete fraud, because the bears killed him (and were killed). He made one big point against his intentions, and all the nuance is gone.

      No allowance for bad luck in the new era — only foolishness, callousness and stupidity. Still, I’ll offer that this guy had some bad luck, and I think the historical record in the park supports that. Elk is correct that grizzly bears are both abundant and hunted, just a few miles to the north outside the park, in fact, where this very bear may even have been headed in 2 or 3 weeks to fill up on Toklat fall chums. This guy’s crime amounts to a large part bad luck, and only a small part to poking about carelessly off the beaten track without a consumptive purpose, but the percentages will be reversed in the public mind. Why was he out exposing himself to dangerous animals in the wilds of Alaska for no material reason if it wasn’t safe for all parties? That trophy grizzly might have made somebody’s hunt and adorned a big wall somewhere, without the human bloodshed — or the scorn.

      • WM says:


        I usually agree with most of your posts, based on your abundant knowledge of AK grizzlies and other experience. This one has me a bit confused. I get the part about Treadwell ultimately proving the exact opposite of what he had hoped to – bad luck and all. And that his experience, going against conventional wisdom, has served as THE illustration for poor risk managment, in light of what people assumed from years of anecdotal experience – that grizzlies are to some extent unpredictable by neophytes and maybe even the experienced alike, and in most settings deserving of considerable deference and maybe even avoidance (exceptions including but not limited to Mc Neil River bears, those that Linda Hunter sometimes speaks of where she guided bears familiar with humans under controlled conditions, or those at your fish weirs). And last, that making a mistake brings instant and unforgiving criticism from the watchers.

        From you own stories, here, you have shared some hair-raising experiences that could have turned out differently but for a stroke of good luck, quick and reasoned response or excellent marksmanship on the part of someone in your work party, for that matter.

        Having seen some of the video work of Treadwell, among his grizzly friends, my sense was always not whether an incident would happen, but when.

        I kind of liken interaction with grizzlies in other than controlled conditions, sort of like riding a motor cycle. The more you do it, the greater the likelihood of a bad accident, whether it is of your own causing or someone else’s. Again, it is not whether it happens, but when, especially if some bear is having a bad day, wants to work off a little testosterone among his peers, or mama thinks you are a little too close to the little ones.

        • Ralph Maughan says:

          Yes, Treadwell had years of amazingly good fortune and yet it was only a matter of time. He was like a person who climbs dangerous mountains.

        • SEAK Mossback says:

          WM –
          I guess I can understand the confusion about my point, although I think you got most of it. Treadwell definitely engaged in extended high risk behavior, sort of like the solo unroped rock climber and what happened to him is not surprising — his risk management was not good if one of his foremost goals was to avoid injury or death. My intention was not to pile further criticism on Treadwell but to remark on the change in collective consciousness — I have not seen anything quite like that after a climbing fatality or death from other high risk activity. I’m a bit sensitive in that I see the Treadwell imprint on passers-by that glance at photos by my office — and utter disapproval, not infrequently including the word “Treadwell”.

          Ironically, only a few miles from the location of the Denali grizzly fatality, on the Stampede trail, sits a long-abandoned school bus that has become a sort of Mecca for people who are generally sympathetic with the plight of a young guy who went there to experience the wild, and ended up dying in that bus after an extended series of blunders and misfortunes — more or less a cult hero. A polar opposite to some of the reactions here.

          Of course, one difference is that the Denali grizzly fatality occurred in a National Park, which is by definition outdoor museum where you are expected to follow the roped path between exhibits and curtail risk-taking. It’s a destination, a green spot on the map that is designed to accommodate volume in visitation. The other side of curtailing risk is that the NPS assumes a greater obligation for your personal safety, and others who will follow if you happen to fall victim to risk-taking and long odds. That’s why national parks have very limited application in fulfilling human desire for the full range of wilderness experience, and should be limited to exceptional show-case areas appropriate for a museum. The fact that Treadwell carried out his highly publicized activities in another National Park (Katmai) obviously drove NPS to distraction. Still, some visitors obviously do not always stay within the ropes. Have you ever thumbed through Michio Hoshino’s book and wondered how close he must have been to get those incredible photos of a big Denali Park grizzly chasing a parka squirrel around on snow — in the days before pepper spray? The main difference was that he survived hundreds of hours doing that in Denali to photograph again, while this guy didn’t get a second chance. Some may label him a goat for that, but I’m content just to say he took a risk that countless others have taken in Denali and elsewhere, and had the misfortune to get nailed by odds that he either was unaware of or decided to take, or both.

          I was also agree with Ralph and Elk 275 that this is “no more than a small ripple in the bear population”. Overall, it was nothing out of the ordinary, except possibly for its rarity given the number of hikers and photographers in the hills of Denali.

    • Ralph Maughan says:


      I think your comment above brings some good balance to this discussion.

      Didn’t anyone read that this is one bear in a place with many grizzly bears? It is also the first mortality in the Park which I find amazing because of all the bears and its shear size. There is no indication this is going to happen again soon, especially because people will be warned a lot from now on, and the obvious mistake of approaching a big bear all alone in a place where you have no escape will be told and retold.

      The death of this bear will make no more than a small ripple in the bear population. This is not the North Cascades or the Idaho Selkirks where every grizzly is vital to the continuation of the population.

      • mikepost says:

        Perhaps Denali will be a safer place for a much longer time for both humans and bears because the patina of the wilderness “park” has been ripped away and future visitors will be that much more circumspect about wildlife and wilderness.

        SM: great post. There are actually commercial tours to go see the bus. I would crush/burn the thing.

  8. HaL 9000 says:

    Keep a respectful and safe distance from all wild animals.

    Getting too close isn’t good for the animals.

    It’s disrespectful of and can be stressful to them. And it can be dangerous, even deadly, for you.

    I’m baffled that some people can’t keep such a simple, obvious rule.

    • I have spent a few days on the Toklat in this same area. It would be easy to walk up on a bear in the willows and startle it.
      This hiker may not have approached the bear at all, but simply decided to photograph it when he first encountered it. I would like to know if the bear that killed him was the same one he photographed. With twelve bears in the area, he could have startled a second bear and got killed by it.
      The national parks have lots of rules about how close you are supposed to get to Grizzlies, but their gift shops are full of books with photos of Grizzlies taken at very close range. Many of the books have photos of park employees(researchers) holding drugged animals. If park officials want the public to stay at a safe distances, they should set an example and follow the rules themselves.

      • Immer Treue says:

        ***When he got to 50 yards of the non-aggressive appearing bear after 8 minutes of videoing it, the bear suddenly attacked and killed him. It dragged his body to a more secluded spot (to eat him?).***


        I’ve been in the Toklat too, as have many 100’s if not 1000’s. This guy had eight minutes with this bear at a short distance. All back country users must take the “seminar” about what to do. This individual broke the rules and paid for it with his life. It doesn’t matter what others are perceived to have done. This man’s false confidence cost him his life.

      • SEAK Mossback says:


        Interesting — I just heard the Denali superintentant on NPR talking about the incident and he said it has been viewed as a wake-up call to park staff who work in the field that they may have been too complacent in their own movements around grizzlies in the park.

        In financial markets, they call it “fat tail risk”. It’s always there, even if repeated personal experience suggests it is not.

  9. Interesting discussion . . the fact is that we will never know exactly how the Treadwell incident went down. . we do know he was eaten by a bear or bears and that’s all we really know for sure. In this case again, even if more facts were to come to light, the public would not necessarily to privy to them. When someone gets killed by a bear it feeds those with unreasonable fears and makes the rest of us wonder. . I have seen from personal experience with the relatively “human conditioned” bears I worked with, that an animal they wouldn’t normally consume or kill is tasted and consumed once dead by bears, even if it gives them a bellyache. When a human is consumed by a bear it is tragic, but also there doesn’t seem to be anything in nature that happens without a reason. Unfortunately, we know relatively so little about bears we may never know the reason. On the killing the bear issue . . well I agree if a bear kills a human it is hard because we don’t and will never know what the bear was experiencing to decide what to do. I vote we can’t take a chance, but I also say that it is near impossible to tell if the dinning bear is the culprit, especially after a number of hours. It is possible that the wrong bear has been killed in many instances.

    • mikepost says:

      Linda, in more cases than not the stomach content proves the case, as in this case. Same as Treadwell where the recovered movie camera audio well demonstrated the cause/effect/consumption scenario and the bears later present had related flesh in their gut. Thats why gastro-necropsies are done.

      • That was my point. . the stomach contents prove that a bear ate the person but NOT that the bear killed the person. Also in the Treadwell case, as documented by Nick Jans in Grizzly Maze, the audio part of the video camera was found three days after the event after the camera had been in an unlocked desk drawer all that time. The audio tag on, which they figured if it was authentic was recorded in the case, in the tent. Possible, maybe. The site was never treated as a crime site but the assumption was made right away that bears killed Treadwell. No other evidence was ever looked for. What is not looked for will not be found. All I can say is, again, we may never know how all that happened.

    • Salle says:

      The Park Superintendent-? is interviewed on this NPR piece. Apparently the guy had a wife and daughter at home…

  10. Salle says:

    Other bear news in the Rockies…

    Feeding bears force course change in GranFondo Banff

    There’s also a list of other articles about bear in Canada including one about bears being baited with meat to facilitate tourist photography…

  11. Wm Bova says:

    Last year in Yellowstone a sow was put down after dna confirmed she and her cubs had consumed an unfortunate hiker. Did she kill him? We’ll never know the answer to that as there were a dozen or so bears in the area, but they were sure she killed a man photographing her few months earlier, and she was let go as the NPS deemed this to be a natural reaction to protect her cubs. Perceived predatory attacks against humans will always begin the process of removing the culprit if it can be identified. Unfortunately, a bear will be put down if it is consuming a human victim. This has more to do with liability than actual blame as it’s next to impossible to identify the culprit bear once consumption has begun.

  12. KDRoberts says:

    My sympathy lies with the rangers who were forced to kill this beautiful animal — in His home, where He ruled .. because of an idiot.

  13. RobertR says:

    For those who have a higher value for animals over human life need a reality check.
    If it was one of your family members brother,sister,wife,husband or relative etc would you just say oh they were stupid and deserved to die but the animal that killed them is more important than my family or friend.
    There is and should be zero tolerance for predation on humans period!

    • Immer Treue says:


      I don’t mean to split hairs with you, and do not intend to come off as anti-human…
      1. If this prevents this particular bear from killing another human, then yes, it was the right thing to do.
      2. My family would not seek vendetta against a wild animal. I told them it was my choice to venture into the areas I have gone.
      3. Which leads into the most important point. It appears that from all available evidence, this family man made all the wrong choices. He put filming a bear at 50 feet(contrary to all park instruction)away for eight minutes above his own family and paid for it with his life, and that of the probable bear.
      I don’t think anyone on this site finds anything positive in this man’s death other than his own stupidity, nothing else to call it, lead to his own death. The only positive that hopefully derives from the event is that it will reinforce what one should do while in Denali, not what one should not do.

    • Salle says:

      Matter of opinion there, RobertR. How do you know what I would do or say about it if it were a member of my family?

      I had an issue about the danger that bears can pose to humans with several members of my family who came to visit years ago. I live in bear territory and I tried to warn them about bears. In fact, the place where they were staying had fresh bear poo right outside the back door, I’m sure we scared it off as we arrived. They were too interested in their family woes and how I was not to be listened to because their personal issues took precedent. One of the oldest of the group went storming off into the woods, where the bear went, with no knowledge or protection soon after we got to their cabin. My thoughts were, guess we’ll be losing one today because she was stupid and wouldn’t hear of any dangers of the outdoors because she thought I nothing of value to offer-but I’m sure they would have blamed me after the fact. They were visiting from Chicago and San Diego where bears are things of fairy tales and cuddly, fuzzy animals. Had she been mauled, I don’t think I would have had the response you infer. Stupid is stupid no matter who has the disease. If it had happened to a member of my family or a friend… I can’t make them listen or obey rules or reason and I can only conclude that it was their error in judgement that made them vulnerable in the first place. I would still defend the life of the bear, regardless of whom it harmed or killed. And I mean that most sincerely, even if it happened before my very eyes.

    • Ida Lupine says:

      There is and should be zero tolerance for predation on humans period!

      It really isn’t predation in the typical sense, in my view. It’s not like the bear went hunting for man. In that case I would agree it’s the only option.

      In this case, the bear was minding his own business, when the man against warnings and instruction did what the bear would interpret as a challenge – approached him closely with a clicking camera and didn’t go away. He deliberately and consciously put himself in harm’s way. This man had a wife and child and his first obligation is to them. I do feel badly that this happened, but it is a wild park. The bear was killed for doing what bears do. Killing one does nothing to prevent future predation, and whether or not it leads to more attacks on people because we think we must be just so damned irresistible to them, sounds like one of many old wive’s tales about wildlife that are simply not true. Maybe one of our animal behaviourists could answer that questions. I just read about a situation out in Boulder where a cougar was shot for “not showing sufficient fear of humans.” Sounds rather subjective to me. With continued encroachment on their habitat, animals have become used to humans and that is not good for either.

      That said, bears are very exciting to see for visitors and continued education is the ansswer I think. I remember seeing a black bear (from a long distance!) and everybody loves to see them. You’ve got to be very careful out there. 🙂

      • Salle says:

        “…a cougar was shot for ‘not showing sufficient fear of humans.’”

        Subjective indeed! It’s one of the elements of species-centric exceptionalism that I complain about. How is it that wildlife, particularly predators, should automatically fear us? We are of food quality and they can, at times, see us as such. We, on the other hand, expect that all other lifeforms should fear us for our incredible base of knowledge – which in many cases makes us less knowledgeable than we’d care to admit – that many think makes us invincible and superior. Quite the conundrum and a problem that we humans should be looking at with an unclouded mirror sans the rose colored shades.

        • Ida Lupine says:

          Well said. 🙂

        • HAL 9000 says:

          It probably boils down to how you view human beings — simply one animal or creature among many, or something else entirely.

          I take the latter view, therefore, I would never regard any beast’s life, no matter how majestic, as having the same value as a human being’s life.

          That said, I also believe in accountability, the factor of circumstances, and consequences.

          A person who goes stupidly and arrogantly into wild country, aggravates a bear, and is hammered by the bear — simply suffered the consequences of poor decisions. In which case, most probably, just leave the bear alone, and let the incident stand as a cautionary tale.

          However, if a predator is hanging around human settlement, and showing no fear of people, then I myself could kill it without a second’s hesitation, or a shred of remorse.

          • Nancy says:

            “I take the latter view, therefore, I would never regard any beast’s life, no matter how majestic, as having the same value as a human being’s life.

            However, if a predator is hanging around human settlement, and showing no fear of people, then I myself could kill it without a second’s hesitation, or a shred of remorse”

            Beasts? Predators hanging around human settlements?

            “Then I myself could kill it without a second’s hesitation, or a shred of remorse”

            Hal? Seriously?

            • HAL 9000 says:

              I don’t regard animal life as having the same intrinsic worth as human life. I see no rational reason too.

              However, on second thought, relocating a predator that has become too accustomed to hanging around human settlement is always a good option — one which wildlife managers frequently take.

          • timz says:

            “However, if a human is hanging around a grizzly settlement, and showing no fear of grizzly, then grizzly could kill it without a seconds hesitation, or a shred of remorse.”

            Makes the bear completely justified in killing.

            • HAL 9000 says:


              There’s no justification in nature. It simply is what it is, and animals do what they do. Not terribly complicated.
              Therefore, as I noted in my previous post, a person who goes arrogantly into wild grizzly country, and stupidly fails to respect the bears’ space, might suffer the consequences of his own poor decisions.

              But a predator in human settlement is another matter. It’s justifiable to protect human life. If that means trapping and relocating the animal, fine. If the situation reaches the point where the animal has to be killed, that’s fine too.
              I’m not going to lament the death of an animal that was killed to protect human life.

            • timz says:

              “There’s no justification in nature. It simply is what it is, and animals do what they do. Not terribly complicated.”

              Funny, we’ve been trying to tell the wolf haters that for years, and they still don’t get it.

          • SEAK Mossback says:

            Brown bears actually can make amazingly good neighbors, although it is critical not to let them associate you with food, and that is usually where things deteriorate around settlements. Perhaps because they are so big and powerful, they seem to have evolved so that at least subdominant bears tend to be very discrete, particularly compared with black bears. Most of my experience has been around remote field camps, often at a salmon weir with no other human visitation other than a bi-weekly mail/grocery flight. So food is usually so abundant as not to be even a potential issue, were the crew careless with theirs. And of course those bears that gravitate to the weir tend not to be dominant or aggressive animals and the adults are mostly sows. I’ve been involved with one weir in one of the densest brown bear areas in probably the world (Chichagof Island) for 30 seasons now and there has not been what I would call a serious incident there in that time, with bears all around and people walking streams and encountering bears in dense foliage and living in a wall tent for 3 months a year.

            The two potentially most serious incidents both happened in the 1980s, one with a couple hiking away from camp coming on a bear sleeping on a fresh mound that was speculated (but not verified) to contain remains of a kill. The other was during the very first year when the bears were least aware of the operation when my boss and a young guy fresh from Germany walked around a root wad on a headwaters stream and encountered a sow and cubs feet away. The sow made quite an impressive fuss and the guy from Germany, having previously asked my boss what they should do if they ran into a bear, stood his ground as instructed . . . . . and finally turned his head for guidance, seeing nothing but Phil’s old navy blue watch cap drifting peacefully down the riffle. At that point, he also bolted, picking Phil’s cap out of the creek and caught up to him . . . . and demanded an explanation for the breach of protocol, to which Phil replied “Well . . . that bear was just too close.” Otherwise, while there has been ample evidence over time of bears killing each other in the drainage, there has been no serious issue other than occasional nuisance things like chewing on equipment left out, etc. or damaging the weir in specific ways for which reasonable solutions can usually be found.

            One theme that seems to emerge over and over is that brown bears are highly individualistic — seemingly as much as humans, so it is very difficult to accurately generalize. Long ago, when I was a timid hiker in Yellowstone, one of the facts that NPS published was that grizzly bears are “unpredictable”. I have come to believe that most of that unpredictability is variation among uknown individuals that a traveler may encounter, while certain individuals seem amazing steadfast in their demeanor and approach to life. Of course, the bears that gravitate to a salmon weir are usually subdominant animals that are willing to spend hours near humans for safety from more dominant bears and a good fishing location . . . . and are willing to completely concede dominance to the crew.

            The couple who worked longest at the weir on Chichagof (21 seasons) began by running off bears that showed recalcitrance in giving way when the crew walked out to the trap . . . generally by firing a signal flare at them. They found that over time, they could be completely relieved of the need for conditioning by allowing a couple of sows pretty much complete freedom on the weir, and they tended to quickly identify those same shifty individuals and run them off (which could also be fun to watch). Over many years, those particular bears have moved around on, or above or below the weir after fish while the people work and sometimes pass 5 or 6 feet apart, and they are very sensitive to subtle signals and quickly move back at the clearing of a throat or turn of a head —- to the point where photographing them is difficult because the bears turn away when a camera is pointed toward them.

            Generally, bears and people are often in very close proximity on the weir but not showing a lot of interest or looking at each other. Or so I observed and thought . . . . until this spring when the couple with the long tenure out there retired and gave me a photo, that I am perhaps glad I had not seen when I was partly responsible for them. It turns out that one sow, while suitably submissive, was fascinated by them and would sit quietly at the downstream end of the trap and just watch them work in the trap with fish. The photo shows the woman standing in chest waders in the trap, with her back against a deck upon which the bear is sitting 5 feet behind and slightly to the side, with her eyes turned to the side looking at the woman with an expression that could perhaps best be described as adoration. She looks a bit submissive in posture with head slightly down, but with a warm look . . . . the sort of stance and look a well-behaved and admiring dog occasionally gives its owner . . . . and looking at the photo, it would be damned hard as a dog lover to restrain yourself from reaching out and scratching the lovely fur between her ears. Anyway, they simply called her “friendly bear” because that’s what made her stand out in an unusual way from all the others that were compatible with being close to humans, but when it really came down to it, appeared mostly indifferent, not revealing much. I remember toward the end of the movie “Grizzly Man” where the director comments how, while Treadwell thought the bears were his friends, Herzog could see no sign of it in their eyes . . . . . and I agreed. However, if bears had ever been domesticated like wolves, one with an interest in people like “Friendly Bear” probably would have been the first . . . . like the first wolf that remained all night by the campfire. But she’s one tiny point near the end of a hugely diverse spectrum of personalities, perhaps balancing one on the other end who would just as soon eat you as look at you. Not much different from our society.

            • Immer Treue says:


              As sleeplesness for one reason or another is my companion for the night, I thoroughly enjoyed your comment, and once again ask, is a book in the works? You have a knack as a story teller.

            • WM says:

              ++{SEAK} You have a knack as a story teller.++

              Indeed, on the order of a Patrick McManus, who delighted many of us over the years, and was (is) a commercial success, as well.

            • Excellent Seak. I guess from your experiences (and mine) that there may well be bears who are friendly to the point where they want to be pets and those who are like the human equivalent of murders. Fortunately, murderous bears are rare, I suspect more rare than murderous humans.

            • Immer and WM,
              Unfortunately, my near-term agenda for writing probably for a couple of years will be filled with working on technical papers and publications on fisheries. Maybe after that. Remembering the characters and events of the past and sharing stories with others is indeed fun, and part of why I’m attracted to history — with the other part being that applicable points and lessons can sometimes be found in stories, that would otherwise be lost.

  14. WM says:


    I agree with what you say regarding the grizzly on this thread. The cougar in Boulder is a bit different, as it seems to me it is encroaching on what is now human occupied habitat. We have spoken of this on this forum regarding another cougar in Seattle’s Discovery Park, and a Safeway store parking lot in Lewiston, ID. Lots of black bears, cougars, coyotes, and a host of other potentially dangerous predators to humans or pets across the country, encroaching on what is now human territory, taking the easy meal if they can get it.

    I have spent quite a bit of time around black bears over the years, and mostly without incident. I do recall one time my wife was taking photos with a large format 4×5 film camera on a tripod in the back country of Olympic NP. A black bear cub kept approaching us, and we would move (backpack, dis-assembled camera gear, etc., which took time), so as not tick off mama who was nearby. After awhile it got tedious to keep moving away from the cub. Mama figured we weren’t a threat and the cub hung out within 20-30 feet of us for the better part of an hour. I was always on guard, however, to see if her demeanor changed. She just continued to gorge on berries nearby, seemingly without a care about us.

    We, of course, were in her territory, and I certainly would not have blamed her, specifically, if a charge had ensued. Maybe not real smart on our part, after considering all factors we assumed the known risk at our own peril. Little to no chance she would eat us, so no harm likely to come of the sow and cub by authorities.

    • Ida Lupine says:

      Yes, I guess you are right about the encroachment part. I’m contradicting my post above to think otherwise I guess, but every loss of life is a sad thing. 🙂

      I saw the bear in Yellowstone in a group with a guide so we were quite a distance away – he was eating berries and it was quite a sight for everyone. I think people enjoy seeing them so much that they may get momentarily careless like this poor man may have done. I don’t know what I would have done if we came upon a grizzly. There were warnings. Even the bison scared me! 🙂

  15. louise kane says:

    National Wolfwatcher Coalition seeing funds for assistance with challenge to Wisconsin wolf plan….
    putting money where … know the rest

    As you are aware the National Wolfwatcher Coalition and the Northwood Alliance, Incorporated were two of seven plaintiffs to challenge the Wisconsin DNR’s rules for its upcoming wolf hunting season – specifically the rules related to the use of dogs during the hunt.

    Although we have received hundreds of hours of pro-bono work from our legal team, there are still many legal expenses that need to be covered. Both organizations are 501C3, and therefore any donations are tax-deductible.

    If you are so inclined to help, donations would be appreciate, no matter the amount, to enable us to financially support the best possible legal team for this challenge.

    Contributions to Wolfwatcher can be made by visiting the website go to the donate button. When you get to “Add Special Instructions for the Recipient” – please write WISCONSIN.
    If you prefer, write WISCONSIN on your check and mail it to their business address at P.O. Box 84, East Greenwich, RI 02818
    If you wish to contribute through the Northwood Alliance, visit click “donate” button in the middle of the page, add in remarks “wolf lawsuit”



August 2012


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey