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Grizzly bear kills hiker in Denali National Park

A hiker in Denali National Park has been killed by a grizzly bear, the first known fatal bear attack in the Alaska park’s history, officials said Saturday.

The victim, whose identity was not released because his family has not been notified, was backpacking alone along the Toklat River when he spotted the bear, officials believe.

Photos recovered from the victim’s camera show that he stopped to take pictures of the animal for at least eight minutes before he was attacked, they said in a telephone conference with reporters Saturday.

Park Superintendent Paul Anderson said he believes the victim came within 50 yards of the grizzly before it went on the attack. He said the photos show the bear grazing in the willows and not acting aggressively.

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Backpackers are told to stay at least a quarter mile from bears when in the park, he said. There have been various bear attacks in Denali over the years, though none have been fatal, officials said.

Park service workers were alerted to the attack Friday by three day hikers who saw an abandoned backpack, torn clothing and blood along the river, according to a park service statement.

Rangers found the body late Friday but could not recover it because the sun was fading and they believed multiple bears were nearby. When they returned in a helicopter Saturday afternoon, a grizzly bear was near the body. It was shot and killed by rangers from above.

It was the first time Anderson said he could recall in two decades that a bear was shot and killed in the park.

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Officials believe the attack happened near the river’s open braided gravel bar and the bear later dragged the body to a more secluded site.

A wallet with “probable identification” was found nearby, Denali spokeswoman Maureen McLaughlin in the statement. His family has not yet been notified. Rangers hoped to return to the site Saturday evening to attempt again to recover the body.

Wildlife biologists estimate that a dozen grizzly bears have been living this summer near the site of the attack, according to the park service. In addition to the bear that was killed Saturday, a few others were spotted nearby.

The region near the attack has been evacuated, though other parts of the park remain open, officials said.

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