A 22-year-old man moose hunting with a friend was mauled and killed by a grizzly bear in Alaska while trekking through America’s largest national park in what authorities said was the first attack of its kind in the parks 40-year history. The victim, Austin Pfeiffer of Mansfield, Ohio, was on a 10-day moose hunting trip at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve with a friend when the fatal attack occurred late Sunday, Sept. 20, reported the Mansfield News Journal, part of the USA Today Network.
“The incident is the first known bear mauling fatality recorded in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve since the park was established in 1980," the NPS said in a statement.
Pfeiffer was near the Chisana River drainage at the time of the attack. A remote area approximately 50 air miles from the nearest community of Northway, Alaska and 130 miles from park headquarters, according to the NPS.
Pfeiffer worked as a job site foreman and was described as “a skilled tree climber, lift operator and all around handyman," on the company's website - Dolce's Tree Service, reported USA Today
Wrangell-St. Elias Park and Preserve is over 13 million acres in size, and according to its website the same size as Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park and the country of Switzerland combined.
"Visitors are encouraged to be Bear Aware when traveling in the backcountry and take precautions such as carrying bear spray and using Bear Resistant Food Containers," NPS wrote in a news release.
Fatal bear attacks are rare. On average, 2.56 bear attack deaths occur on the continent of North America each year, Alaska News Source reported.
According to the NPS, bears will move away from humans if they see or hear them coming, but if attacked by a grizzly bear, the NPS recommends people play dead by laying flat on their stomachs with their legs spread out.
Bears are typically more active in the fall months, as they seek food in preparation for hibernation
Earlier this month, a grizzly bear attacked a hunter in Montana, not far from where three other people were injured in two separate attacks, CNN reported. The man was hunting in the western Gravelly Mountains when the bear attacked from a close range. During the incident, the man reportedly fired multiple shots at the bear until it left, according to the Montana Fish Wildfire & Parks. The man survived and was treated at a local hospital.