Rangers work out location of fatal bear attack in park

Rachel D'Oro | Associated Press

Rangers have pinpointed the location of a fatal bear mauling in Alaska's Denali National Park, guided by photographs of the grizzly taken by a solo San Diego backpacker just before the attack.

The bear had taken the remains to a different location, where hikers stumbled upon his backpack, blood and torn clothing.

Park officials said Wednesday that all but 50 square miles of backcountry sections of the park have been reopened less than a week after the death of 49-year-old Richard White, who snapped 26 images of the male bear around the Toklat River. After the attack last Friday, officials closed a 150-square-mile area to hikers.

The photos show White initially was 75 yards from the bear as the animal grazed, head down, on berries, officials said. Other photos were shot from a distance of 60 yards, including the last five where the bear has its head up, then looks at the camera and begins moving toward White.

Park officials believe the mauling occurred almost immediately after the last image. White's death is the first known fatal bear mauling in the park's nearly century-long history.

White's remains were discovered the same day as the attack and a state trooper fatally shot the bear Saturday. Officials said a necropsy determined it was the animal that killed White.

The photos taken by White have not been released. Park spokeswoman Kris Fister said park officials are still trying to determine if the photos are in the public realm or belong to White's family. The family, which has declined interview requests by The Associated Press, has asked that the photos not be made public, according to officials. Several media organizations, including the AP and the Anchorage Daily News, are seeking the photos under public records requests.

White had been in the Denali backcountry for three nights under a five-night permit. Before receiving the permit, White went through mandatory bear awareness training that teaches people to stay at least a quarter-mile away from bears, and to slowly back away if they find themselves any closer.

Officials said such safety measures have worked for years, and there are no plans to implement changes to park policy.

Associated Press