Solo Hiker Survives Grizzly Bear Attack in Alaska’s Denali National Park and Preserve

by Matthew Memrick

A solo hiker at Alaska’s Denali National Park may have survived a grizzly bear attack because he used bear repellant spray.

CNN reported that the Indiana man was injured Tuesday in the park. Park officials said a grizzly charged the unidentified 55-year-old hiker. The man said two cubs were nearby.

Park spokesman Paul Ollig said the man was in an area above 3,500 feet elevation and featured an “open tundra, with rolling landscape and large stands of willows and alders.” 

The area also had heavy fog at the time.

“He was able to deploy bear spray, but only after the bear had knocked him down,” the park’s statement said.

NBC News reported that the victim walked 1.5 miles to a visitor’s center where “medical personnel” vacationing at Denali treated him. 

An Anchorage Daily News report identified the location of the bear attack as south of the Eielson Visitor Center.

A park bus driver called 911, according to the report.

After a quick trip to a nearby medical center, emergency officials took the man 120 miles away to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital. Park officials said the man suffered wounds to the leg, ribs, and shoulder in the bear attack.

Attack Not Out of Ordinary

Park officials closed travel in the area of the attack for one week. The Anchorage Daily News identified those areas as backcountry units 11 and 12. 

They said the bear was protecting its cubs, and no further action is necessary.

Ollig said the bear attack was the first reported in 2021.

Kenai Refuge Bear Attack In June

In June, a bear injured sleeping two campers at Kenai Refuge, according to Alaskan Public Radio.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game officials said the bear attack happened June 12 around midnight. The two campers had bear deterrents but did not have the time to use them.

“There’s no indication that they did anything to prompt the attack or did anything wrong,” Alaska Department of Fish and Game official Jeff Selinger said. “It’s one of those where you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Selinger said the campers took their first aid kits and rode their kayak for an hour to get help. Officials said one camper took a helicopter to the hospital; the other went by ambulance. Officials did not know the severity of the injuries after the bear attack. 

Later, the Anchorage Daily News reported that federal and state officials visited the scene. Public Information Officer Leah Eskelin said no bears were present in the area, but the officials collected a collapsed tent and other camping gear. 

Officials also tried to find bear DNA that they could match with the victims if possible. Biologists can determine sex and species. They might be able to track the animal if the same one causes future bear attacks.