Indiana man stable after bear attack in Denali National Park

Down the valley towards Denali on with the park road wending its way. (Creative Commons photo by Nic McPhee)
Denali National Park (Creative Commons photo by Nic McPhee)

An Indiana man was attacked by a bear in Denali National Park and Preserve Monday night, according to a statement from park officials. He was in stable condition Tuesday morning.

The 55-year-old man, who has not been identified, told rangers he was hiking alone through dense fog in the Thoroughfare Pass area of the park. A grizzly bear with two cubs charged him from 100 feet away, he said.

Park spokesperson Paul Ollig says the attack happened fast but the man was able to successfully deploy bear spray.

“As the bear approached him at a very high speed, he was in the process of getting access to his bear spray and was able to get it out, but wasn’t able to discharge it before the bear was on top of it,” Ollig said. “So at that point, the bear had knocked him down already and he discharged the spray in very close proximity to the bear, at which point, the bear quickly departed the area with its cubs.”

Ollig says the man sustained puncture wounds to his calf and ribs but was able to walk a mile and a half to the Eielson Visitors center where he met a park bus. Park visitors on the bus who happened to be medical providers treated the man’s wounds. Park rangers then helped transport him to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital by ambulance.

Ollig says the incident shows how important it is to have bear spray easily accessible.

“Ensuring that your bear spray is in a location on your person where it can be easily and immediately released, practice removing the safety and getting it into a position where you can spray it in just a matter of moments,” he said.

Park officials say since the attack appeared to be from a mother defending her cubs, there is no indication the bear is unusually dangerous and they will not be searching for it. Parks officials closed backcountry units 11 and 12 for one week.

This story has been updated with information from Denali National Park and Preserve spokesperson Paul Ollig.

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