ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A hiker in Alaska's Denali National Park photographed a grizzly bear for at least eight minutes before the bear mauled and killed him in the first fatal attack in the park's history, officials said Saturday.
Investigators have recovered the camera and looked at the photographs, Denali Park Superintendent Paul Anderson said.
The grizzly bear stares at the camera with a look that appears ominous in the last photograph snapped by Richard White just before the animal mauled him to death.
The photo is among 26 taken of the male bear by the 49-year-old San Diego backpacker.
Chief Park Ranger Pete Webster says most of the photographs show the bear grazing. The last five photos begin with the bear lifting its head, then looking toward the camera, then moving a couple yards closer.
A state trooper fatally shot the bear Saturday.
White was backpacking alone along the Toklat River when he came within 50 yards of the bear, far closer than the quarter-mile of separation required by park rules, officials said.
Officials learned of the attack after hikers stumbled upon an abandoned backpack along the river about three miles from a rest area. 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.
Investigators examined the bear's stomach contents, looked at White's photos and used other tests Saturday evening to confirm that it was the animal that killed White, park officials said in a statement Saturday night.
“Over the years, and especially since the 1970s, the park has worked very diligently to minimize the conflict between humans and wildlife in the park,” Anderson said. “We have some of the most stringent human-wildlife conflict regulations in the National Park system, and I think those are largely responsible for the fact that there hasn't been a fatal attack.”
Denali is 240 miles north of Anchorage. It spans more than 6 million acres and is home to numerous wild animals, including bears, wolves, caribou and moose.