Denali National Park hasn't had a single bear attack since it started in 1917, but this weekend all that changed. Richard White, a 49-year-old hiker from San Diego, was killed by a grizzly bear while hiking in the park. It's a heartbreaking tragedy for his family and also one that could have possibly been avoided.
One of the first rules of hiking in Denali National Park in Alaska is to know about bear safety. Every hiker watches a 30-minute video on bear safety and most carry mace, bells, or even guns to ward off bears. I have hiked there. I know. It's part of the danger.
The contents of White's camera show that he was willfully ignoring the rules of hiking with bears (such as backing slowly away if you are close to them). Soon after the attack, a shooter from a helicopter killed the bear, and while it isn't unusual to put down an animal who might be dangerous, it also seems unfair. See below:
Park officials said:
He approached the bear within approximately 50 yards, and spent more than 8 minutes photographing the bear before it attacked him.
Some questions are left unanswered: Was he a professional photographer? Did he have some reason to believe he could be so close to a bear without being attacked? Was the bear killed because he was guarding the "kill site" or because he had killed, period?
These questions have to be answered before really being able to say it was an irresponsible decision to be there. But knowing what I know, I have a hard time understanding why the bear had to die. This man was in HIS house and was bothering HIM. What do we think a grizzly bear will do when provoked?
All of this is just another argument for respecting nature. A huge national park isn't Disney. Those trees aren't pruned by Mickey and friends at 6 a.m. every morning. It's the wild and bears aren't our "friends" no matter how cute they seem.
We have to respect nature and follow the rules otherwise, tragedies can occur.
Do you think the bear should have been shot?