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Backpacker shoots and kills grizzly bear in Denali National Park

June 1, 2010 |  8:49 am

A grizzly in Denali National Park and Preserve. A backpacker shot and killed a grizzly bear in Denali National Park and Preserve on Friday after the animal charged toward his hiking companion. This is the first shooting incident since a change in federal law that allows firearms to be carried in many national parks and wildlife refuges went into effect in February.

This is also the first known shooting of a grizzly bear in the wilderness portion of the park by a visitor.

According to park spokeswoman Kris Fister, the backpackers were hiking in an area about 35 miles from park headquarters when they heard noise in nearby brush. The male hiker drew a .45-caliber pistol he was carrying, and when the bear emerged and charged toward his female hiking companion, he fired about nine rounds toward the grizzly.

The bear returned to the brush, at which point the hikers headed back the way they came, until meeting a park employee and reporting the incident.

Since it was unclear if the animal was killed or only wounded, the area was immediately closed to other hikers. The bear's carcass was discovered Saturday evening by park rangers near where the shooting took place.

The names of the hikers have not been released, pending investigation into the justification of the shooting. According to the press release issued by Fister, it is legal to carry a firearm in the original Mt. McKinley portion of the park where the incident occurred, but it is not legal to discharge it.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: A grizzly in Denali National Park and Preserve. Credit: Kent Miller

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