Grizzly In Wrangell-St. Elias Park Kills Ohio Hunter

Park's First Known Deadly Mauling Took Place In Cottonwood Creek Drainage On Tuesday, the National Park Service said that a 22-year old ...

Park's First Known Deadly Mauling Took Place In Cottonwood Creek Drainage

On Tuesday, the National Park Service said that a 22-year old Ohio hunter named Austin Pfeiffer was killed by a grizzly in America's largest national park – Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve – while on a 10-day moose hunt with another hunter on Sunday. The park forms a major portion of the Copper River Valley. The hunters were in the Cottonwood Creek drainage, the park announced on September 24th in a press release. They said the death happened around 50 air-miles from the small ALCAN Athabascan village of Northway, and 130 miles from park headquarters in Copper Center.  This is the first grizzly death in the park since it was formed in 1980, 40 years ago. 

The attack was in a remote area of dense vegetation, the National Park Service (NPS) said. They said the hunters had shot a moose the day before, and were working on their meat when they were surprised by the grizzly. Austin Pfeiffer did not have "a defensive firearm or other deterrent, like bear spray" that was "readily available" to him, the press release said. 

It was an extremely isolated area, and other park visitors are not believed to be near the place where the mauling happened, the park said. They did not see any evidence of the grizzly who conducted the attack, but say that rangers will continue to monitor the area for bear activity. They said that per Alaska hunting regulations, the moosemeat was subsequently salvaged, as required by law.

Grizzly-related deaths are relatively rare, but attacks are extremely dangerous. In 2011, a 65-year old hunter, Skip Sanford, was hunting off the Denali Highway, on the border of the Copper Valley, 5 miles upriver from Maclaren River Lodge with his son and several others. He wandered off from camp to look for a lost radio phone, and ran into a grizzly, which charged him.

A former Marine, Sanford shot at the grizzly one time before he was grabbed by the bear, which sunk its claws into his back and his teeth into his skull, tearing his ear. The other hunters took Sanford to Maclaren in a jet boat , where he was evacuated by military helicopter to Providence. The bear, in this case, had attacked Skip Sanford because it was protecting a moose carcass.

In 2012, a hiker was killed by a bear at Denali National Park. 

The 13-million acre Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve was established under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). Sport hunting is allowed on preserve lands. As in many Alaskan national parks, bear safety knowledge, bear spray, and bear resistant containers are always advised for anyone venturing into the wilderness.


UPDATED: THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 24TH, 2020. COPPER RIVER COUNTRY JOURNAL

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