First fatal grizzly attack ever recorded in Denali National Park
Alaska's majestic Denali National Park was the scene of a tragic death on Saturday. In the first known fatality due to a bear mauling in Denali, a backpacker has been attacked and killed by a grizzly bear.
The man was backpacking alone through Denali's amazing scenery along the Upper Toklat River. On Friday afternoon, three hikers found a backpack lying on the ground, along with "signs of a struggle." The hikers did the right thing, returning to a rest area three miles away and alerting authorities.
A few hours later, park rangers marshaled a helicopter and went to scan the area. They spotted a grizzly bear, and the victim's remains nearby. According to CNN, the authorities believe that the man was attacked near the river, and the bear subsequently dragged his body to a nearby sheltered area which offered seclusion in some bushes.
This area of the park has been closed until further notice. Authorities will have to decide how to proceed. Many people will demand that the bear be shot and killed, for the safety of future backpackers. Others will argue that any bear is a potential threat, and how can you ensure that you have the right bear? In many situations such as this, people will make a big show out of killing a large predator and naming it as the killer. It's just a bit of classic security theater.
If you have ever seen the chilling movie "Grizzly Man," you must know that the grizzly bear is a dangerous animal which may decide to attack at any moment. Even those who study grizzlies closely treat them with the utmost caution, as befitting an apex predator which can weigh up to 1,500 pounds, and run up to 30 MPH.
But despite its fearsome reputation and the very real threat of being attacked and mauled, the grizzly bear is largely a plant eater. Depending on the season and the terrain, plants can comprise up to 80-90% of a grizzly bear's diet. Although the popular conception of a grizzly bear is slapping salmon out of a river or chowing down on a moose carcass, grizzlies are much more likely to be found eating tubers, grasses, legumes, and berries. When not eating plants, insects are also a favored dietary item, including army cutworm moths, ants, bees, and miller moths.
Regardless, grizzly bears are not just beautiful and ecologically threatened wild animals, they can also be quite dangerous. They deserve our respect, as well as our protection.