Alaska (NBC) (09/25/20)— An Ohio man who was killed by a grizzly bear in an Alaskan national park was alone at the time because his hunting partner had gone back to camp to take meat from a moose they had killed, a park official said.
Austin Pfeiffer, age 22, was killed Sunday by a grizzly bear in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in what the park called a “surprise attack.”
It was the first known fatal bear attack since the national park and preserve was established in 1980. The park covers more than 13 million acres in the eastern part of the state, next to the Yukon in Canada.
Park spokeswoman Jan Maslen said Pfeiffer and his hunting partner killed a moose Saturday evening, and they went back to salvage the meat Sunday.
The pair decided to divide their efforts as they were taking meat from the moose back to camp, and the partner had gone back to camp with one load while Pfeiffer stayed behind to prepare another, Maslen said.
The partner was coming back to the kill site and was charged by a bear. He shot at the bear, and it flinched as though it was struck and then ran off, Maslen said. The partner then found Pfeiffer dead at the site of the moose kill.
“The bear that charged Pfeiffer’s partner is believed to be the same bear that caused Pfeiffer’s death,” Maslen said. The distance from the camp to where the moose was is about half a mile.
The National Park Service determined that when the surprise attack that killed Pfeiffer occurred, a gun or device like bear spray was not readily available, the park said in a statement.
“Park rangers found no evidence that the bear remains in the area, and no other park visitors are known to be in the immediate vicinity of the incident location,” the statement said. “The site is extremely remote, but park rangers will continue to monitor the area for bear activity.”
The hunter’s partner was safely evacuated and Pfeiffer’s body was recovered Monday, the park said. The pair had been on a 10-day moose hunting trip, park officials said.