August 25, 2012 / 10:40 PM / in 5 years

Bear kills Denali backpacker in park's first fatal mauling

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - A grizzly bear killed a backpacker in Denali National Park in the first fatal mauling at the Alaska nature site since it was created in 1917, the National Park Service said on Saturday.

The solo backpacker died on Friday afternoon in the encounter with the bear, the Park Service said in a statement. Rangers found the body that night after being summoned by hikers who had come upon the attack site.

Efforts to recover the body were postponed due to bad light and risks from bears feared to be nearby, the Park Service said.

“We have a likely identity but we’re waiting to get out to the remains and get them back today before we make a positive confirmation,” Park Service spokeswoman Maureen McLaughlin said.

The attack happened at the Toklat River, about three miles south of a rest stop on the park’s sole road, the Park Service said.

Hikers found an abandoned backpack, bloody clothes and signs of a struggle. They summoned rangers, who flew to the site by helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft and found the body.

The bear apparently attacked the man near the river’s gravel bar and dragged his remains to a more secluded site in the bushes, the Park Service said.

Officials will attempt to identify the bear that killed the man but that “is not going to be terribly easy,” McLaughlin said. A camera found near the backpack had several images of a bear, which will be analyzed, she said.

The death marks the first fatal bear mauling on record since the national park was created in 1917 as Mount McKinley National Park, officials said.

The last major attack in memory at the 6 million-acre Denali Park and Preserve was about four decades ago when a park employee was seriously injured, McLaughlin said.

Park officials say Denali, one of Alaska’s top tourist attractions, has a robust bear-safety program. Backpackers are required to receive “Bear Aware” training that includes a 30-minute safety video and a briefing from a ranger before they receive permits to hike and camp, the Park Service said.

Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Bill Trott

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