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Grizzly mauls hiker to death at Denali National Park; bear shot

Updated at 11:05 p.m. ET: A backpacker hiking inside Denali National Park was killed by a grizzly bear after a violent struggle, the park said in a statement Saturday. The death was the first fatal bear mauling inside the huge park in Alaska.

Rangers discovered the body after three dayhikers found a backpack, as well as torn clothing and blood, along the Toklat River on Friday afternoon, the park stated.

The rangers arrived at the site Friday night but were unable to immediately recover the remains due to the presence of at least one bear in the area and the approaching darkness.

Reuters reported that Denali park Superintendent Paul Anderson said the bear suspected of attacking the man on Friday afternoon, a large male grizzly, was found near the body and was shot from a helicopter Saturday afternoon.

Reuters said officials hoped to recover the man's body Saturday evening and were trying to contact his family.

Pete Webster, chief ranger for the park, told Reuters that investigators will try to confirm that the dead grizzly was to blame by examining its stomach contents, analyzing bear scat and conducting a DNA analysis.

There also may be photographic clues. Reuters reports:

A camera found near the backpack showed that the hiker had photographed the bear for more than eight minutes and appeared to have come within 50 yards of the animal before he was attacked, Anderson said.

The photographs do not show the attack, Anderson said. "They show the bear grazing in the willows and not acting aggressive in any form or manner during that period of time," he said.

Park rules require people to stay a quarter-mile away from bears and to immediately back away at a slow pace if they find themselves to be closer.

All hiking in the area was banned until further notice. 

The park estimates that some 12 grizzlies have been residing in the area this summer.

Denali in June saw the tragic deaths of four Japanese climbers swept up by an avalanche on Mount McKinley.

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