A bear killed a human in Alaska on Sunday, the first fatal incident in the state in nearly a century. A 76-year-old hiker in Tok set out on a backpacking trip when he was mauled by a grizzly bear, the first fatal bear attack in Alaska since 1907.
Jim Houser, the coroner for Kenai, said in a statement: “The injuries appear severe and likely contributed to the underlying cardiac condition, which likely occurred before the attack.”
While bears in the state are biologically omnivorous and will eat just about anything, public health officers have long been warning hikers to be cautious. Houser said in the statement that most deaths by grizzly bear have happened in the winter, when the bears are “needed at dens for denning and to defend young bears.” This season, Alaska experienced warmer winters with less snow on the ground and more warmth in the surrounding environment, with record warm temperatures in December and January. For bears, such a climate change is a welcome change, according to Bill Weller, chief of Wildlife Services at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
And then there’s the surge in human deaths. In 2018, the National Park Service recorded 77 park fatalities, 10 of which were human-bear encounters. About a fifth of those encounters ended in the death of a human, which Weller blamed on climate change.