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Man killed by bear in Alaska was a San Diego photographer

Richard White, 49, who was mauled to death Friday, was the first person to die in a bear attack in the history of Denali National Park, authorities say. Photos of the bear that mauled him were found in his camera.

August 27, 2012|By David Zahniser, Los Angeles Times
  • Early morning sun shines on the south side of 17,400-foot Mount Foraker in Alaska's Denali National Park on Aug. 12. A San Diego photographer was killed by a grizzly bear at the park Friday.
Early morning sun shines on the south side of 17,400-foot Mount Foraker… (Dan Joling / Associated…)

A man killed by a grizzly bear in Alaska's Denali National Park last week was identified Sunday as a 49-year-old San Diego photographer, who had been taking pictures of the animal for at least seven to eight minutes before the attack, park officials said.

Richard White, was between 50 and 100 yards away from the bear that ultimately mauled him Friday, according to images found on his camera, park spokeswoman Maureen McLaughlin said. He is the first person to die in a bear attack in the history of the park, which covers 4.7 million acres.

Hikers are typically advised to stay at least 300 yards away from a bear, McLaughlin said.

The bear, which weighed an estimated 600 pounds, was shot and killed by a state trooper as he was defending the spot where White's remains were found.

The incident began Friday afternoon when three hikers found a camera, a backpack and evidence of a violent struggle, including torn clothing and blood, along the Toklat River. They reported what they found to park rangers, who sent a helicopter and a fixed-wing aircraft to search for White, officials said.

Rangers in the helicopter determined that the bear had dragged White's remains from a flat expanse along the river to a more secluded brushy area 150 yards away, where it stored its food.

Investigators determined the bear had killed White after reviewing the bear's stomach contents, the images on the camera and other evidence, officials said. The pictures showed the bear foraging in the brush along the Toklat River, McLaughlin said.

"For a good [part] of that time, the bear was unaware that anyone was there," McLaughlin said. "There were no dramatic signs of aggression."

Bear attacks have resulted in minor injuries in recent years, McLaughlin said. But several decades have passed since someone in the park was severely mauled, she said.

White had been backpacking in a backcountry section of the park for three nights when he was killed. Park officials imposed an emergency closure prohibiting all hiking and camping in that portion of the park and others nearby until further notice.

Although no other park visitors were seen near the site of the bear attack, park employees contacted three backpackers in adjacent areas Saturday and flew them by helicopter to the Toklat River Rest Area.

david.zahniser@latimes.com

Times staff writer Paloma Esquivel contributed to this report.

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