The hunter who was killed by a grizzly bear in an Alaska national park died in a surprise attack that left him unable to defend himself while field-dressing a moose, officials said.
Austin Pfeiffer, a 22-year-old from Ohio, was killed Sunday during a 10-day hunting trip at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve as he salvaged meat from a moose he and his hunting partner killed a day earlier, the National Park Service said Thursday.
An investigation found Pfeiffer died during the “surprise attack” and didn’t have a firearm or bear spray with him at the time, according to Thursday’s statement.
No evidence was found that the bear remained in the remote area of the 13.2 million-acre park. Pfieffer’s death was the first known fatal bear attack in the wilderness area since it was established in 1980, officials said, adding that park rangers will continue to monitor the area for bear activity.
Pfieffer and his hunting partner, who was also from out of state, killed the moose late Saturday and returned to the area to field-dress it before taking it back to their camp, a park spokeswoman told the Anchorage Daily News.
Pfieffer decided to stay behind to butcher the animal as his partner took loads of the meat to their campsite, park spokeswoman Jan Maslen said.
Pfieffer’s partner was returning from their camp when the bear charged at him, prompting him to squeeze off several rounds at the animal, which got as close to him as 20 feet at one point, Maslen said.
The bear appeared to have been shot before running off, the newspaper reports.
Pfieffer’s partner then found Pfieffer dead when he returned to the moose carcass, Maslen said.
“We assume it was a surprise attack, that he was preparing the next load and didn’t have a weapon or deterrent on hand to defend himself,” she told the newspaper.
Pfieffer, who was from Mansfield, Ohio, worked as a foreman for a tree service company and was known as an all-around handyman, the Mansfield News Journal reports. He also worked at Gamemaster Taxidermy, his Facebook profile shows.
Pfieffer, who got married in October 2018, would have turned 23 on Tuesday. Relatives declined to comment on Wednesday, the newspaper reports.
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