Hunter killed by grizzly bear in Alaska national park

(Photo: Jackie Skaggs, USGS Public Affairs Officer)

A hunter was attacked and killed by a grizzly bear in an Alaska national park – a first in the nature preserve, officials announced.

The Austin Pfeiffer, 22, was in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve during a 10-day moose hunting trip when the bear attacked on Sunday, the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) announced.

Pfeiffer, a tourist from Ohio, was with a friend at the time.

The attack occurred near the Cottonwood Creek drainage, an area of mixed tundra and forest lands with dense vegetation, while the hunting party was salvaging meat from a moose harvested the day before.

The NPS called it “the first known bear mauling fatality recorded in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve since the park was established in 1980.”

They say it was a surprise attack and the hunters didn't have time to fire or use bear spray.

The victim's hunter partner was safely evacuated by air.  Alaska Wildlife Troopers were able to recover the victim's body the following day.

There was no evidence that the bear was still in the area and no other park visitors were known to be in the vicinity of the attack.

The park and preserve is over 13 million acres in size and the incident occurred in a remote area approximately 50 air-miles from the nearest community of Northway, Alaska and 130 miles from park headquarters.

Visitors were encouraged to be "Bear Aware" when traveling in the backcountry and take precautions such as carrying bear spray and using Bear Resistant Food Containers (BRFC). The park also encouraged hunters to read Bear Safety for Hunters.