Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Bear Attack

How many times do people need to be reminded that life is not a Disney movie?

In those family-friendly films, people don't end up in the digestive tract of the warm and fuzzy wildlife that seem so cuddly you almost want to name them and take them home where they can sleep on the sofa.

But real life isn't like that. Take for example the case of Richard White of San Diego who was hiking in Alaska's Denali National Park when he pressed his luck by getting too close while photographing a grizzly bear. That poor fellow ended up inside the griz.

Park officials have a standing safety policy stating that visitors must maintain a separation distance of at least a quarter-mile from the bears. But evidence from photographs recovered in his camera show that White was within 50 yards of the bear when the attack took place.

White's body was discovered after some hikers came across an abandoned backpack and bloody clothing alongside a river. They notified park rangers who conducted a helicopter search and located the body at a grizzly "food cache" about 150 yards from the scene of the attack. The bear was sitting on top of White's remains.

Park superintendent Paul Anderson said, "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. 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."

Did I mention that Richard White made history by being the first human fatality caused by bear attack in Denali National Park? Of course, outside the park there have been numerous lethal encounters with bears. That's because people get too close to these epic predators.

Prior to being issued a permit to hike in Denali, all backpackers receive mandatory bear awareness training that teaches them to stay at least a quarter-mile away from bears. Records show that Richard White received that training, but apparently decided to ignore it.

Maybe he didn't see the movie "Grizzly Man" about Timothy Treadwell who thought he could make friends with the bears if he just acted docile and pretended to be part of their community. Oh … in case you didn't see the movie, it ended badly. Grizzly man and his girlfriend Amie Huguenard ended up in the digestive tract of the bear. For the record, Treadwell had been warned repeatedly by park officials (Katmai National Park) that his actions were unsafe.

Deb Liggett, superintendent at Katmai National Park told the Anchorage Daily News, "At best, he's midguided. At worst, he's dangerous. If Timothy models unsafe behavior, that ultimately puts bears and other visitors at risk."

It's easy to understand how a bad example endangers others who might think that kind of behavior is okay. But, how does it put the bears at risk? Simple — the "offending" bears are killed.

What can we learn from this?

Cripes, I hope I don't have to spell it out yet again.


  1. That poor fellow ended up inside the griz.

    Hum, guess it was hungry, bears don't much like the taste of us monkeys but you eat what you need to eat to keep going.

    Anyway, went to my first mountain man rendezvous this weekend, best time I've had since moving here, and I bought a 50 caliber Hawkins.

  2. Went black powder shooting today, love my new Hawken, but have to doctor the rear sight some, it's shooting high even as low as I can set it.

  3. At the rendezvous I watched a few of the better hands start fires with flint stones and striking irons and char cloth like they did in the old days. Seems like one of those striking irons would work better on the flint on these modern magnesium blocks than the tool that comes with them.

    Lighter flints are a poor substitute, the sparks are too fine and don't live long. Mutter, mutter.

  4. I like having e a good "flint 'n steel" set with me in the outdoors, and I have several different ones. The real secret to successful fire-making is the tinder. A dry char cloth is excellent for catching the spark and holding a "coal" long enough to get the tinder started, as long as the tinder itself is dry and fine. I've used old chunks of charred wood left over from previous fires to substitute for char cloth, and it works well.

  5. They took rope fibers (looked like some kind of hemp type rope) to use for tinder, formed them into a little nest and blew on the nest until it got going, didn't take long either. I picked up a pot of charred wood chunks there, going to try making some black powder.