State Trooper Shoots Grizzly That Killed Backpacker

A southern California man killed by a grizzly bear in Alaska’s Denali National Park spent eight minutes shooting photos of the animal that killed him just moments before the attack, a National Park Service official said Sunday.

This was the first fatal attack by a grizzly bear in the history of the park, which is located 240 miles north of Anchorage, spans more than 6 million acres and is home to numerous wild animals, including bears, wolves, caribou and moose.

Investigators have recovered the camera and looked at the photographs, which show the bear grazing and not acting aggressively before the attack, Denali Park Superintendent Paul Anderson said.

From CNN:

“The bear was generally unaware that he was there until the last couple of shots, then his attention turned,” park spokeswoman Maureen McLaughlin said.

The photographs “are not that demonstrative” and show “nothing graphic, or any showing major signs of aggression,” McLaughlin said. “We’re not sure what happened after the camera was put down.”

The hiker was identified late Saturday as Richard White, from San Diego, California. After three days out his own, he was backpacking alone along the Toklat River on Friday afternoon when he came within 50 yards of the bear, far closer than the quarter-mile of separation required by park rules.

Officials learned of the attack after hikers stumbled upon an abandoned backpack along the river about three miles from a rest area on Friday afternoon. The hikers also spotted torn clothing and blood. They immediately hiked back and alerted staff park.

Rangers in a helicopter spotted a large male grizzly bear sitting on the hiker’s remains in the underbrush about 100 to 150 yards from the site of the attack on Friday.

State troopers, park rangers and wildlife biologists, using the photos to identify the “large male bear,” shot and killed the animal as it was still “defending the kill site along the Toklat River as the recovery team attempted to reach White’s remains,” the park service said. A necropsy of the bear Saturday night confirmed it was the animal that killed White.

Did state troopers really need to kill this bear, in order to cut it open and make sure they had the right creature? No, obviously they didn’t.

Two wrongs do not make a right. This grizzly bear was behaving exactly as bears are supposed to behave, and he did not deserve to be shot dead.

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. So Richard White chose to deliberately ignore the park ordinance.

I have not visited Denali, but I have backpacked in Glacier National Park, where my son and I were required to listen to a lecture, watch a video, and answer questions about how to behave around grizzly bears. The National Park rangers take their responsibility very seriously, which is why there hasn’t been a bear mauling fatality in Denali until now.

We can’t know what Richard White was thinking, but he clearly did not understand that grizzly bears are wild animals and need to be respected as such.

What do you think? Should state troopers have shot this grizzly?

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Photo Credit: Douglas Brown


Miles Foster5 years ago

It is not necessarily true that 'once a man-eater always a man-eater'. Indian tiger expert, Billy Arjan Singh, claimed on good authority that tigers only resort to eating humans in extreme circumstances such as lack of their natural prey and will readily revert to their normal behaviour once the circumstances change - e.g. if their natural prey is restored or they are provided with alternative food sources to tide them over the crisis. Of course, these extreme circumstances are usually man-made in the first place... However, in this case I fear it was right to shoot this unfortunate bear but Mr White's actions do appear to have been irresponsible. Let us grieve for them both.

Dave C.
David C5 years ago

stop invading their homes and they'll stop attacking people.....very sad all the way around...

Terry V.
Terry V5 years ago


Lorna W.
Lorna W5 years ago

They weren't shooting in self defense. This is gross. I have no respect for cops, having had briefly dated one. They are tigger happy with black people and animals. Ugh.

Mark Donners
Mark Donner5 years ago

The title should be trigger happy american redneck gets his cheap thrills by shooting a bear whose habitat was invaded. These so called small brained "troopers" who don't deserve to have any job do the same to humans every chance they get.

Dianne D.
Dianne D5 years ago

If the backpacker was in the bear's home, then that is the chances he takes. The bear should not have been shot for protecting it's home. We need to replace those in authority with others that don't believe that we have to kill whatever gets in our way. That mentality has gone to our kids and they think it's OK to kill other humans in their way.

Claudia Cavallo
Claudia Cavallo5 years ago

Nobody forced that man to risk so much. It was stupid to kill the bear because he acted as his nature tought him. Incredible that the bear had to die only because the man did not respect the rules

Desire Oosthuizen

You know the dangers of going in the wild! Why kill the bear when it is its natural instinct? You sicken me

Ruadha S.
Ruadha S5 years ago

OK, plainly many of you don't get the vital info here. FIRST--the trooper did not make the choice to kill the bear. It is POLICY. SECOND--There is a reason for the policy other than "it's politics." Bears quickly learn that dumpsters, camp grounds, birdfeeders,isolated cabins are all easy meals. It only takes once for them to realize this is easy eating. THOSE bears are relocated and it's not a guaranteed fix. They can find their way back or find a new campground. But when a grizzly or polar bear or tiger kills a human--from the animal's point of view it's high value protein for an extremely low effort. Of course they'll go for it again. They are apex predators and have a lot of muscle and bones to haul around. Humans need to be banned completely from their habitats or when your children are your age, there will be none.

Annette Vos
Annette Vos5 years ago

The backpacker is coming to close to the bear, he was in the bears territory....... he get's what he want... a close look at the bear, but the poor bear is shot.