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Part of Alaska's Denali Closed After Bear Attack

Date: 27-May-05
Country: USA

The hiker, Joanne Saunders of Poquoson, Virginia, suffered cuts, bruises and a broken nose on Monday when the bear grabbed her by the ankle and pulled her onto the ground, the Park Service said. Saunders was treated and released from a Fairbanks hospital.

The attack, which lasted just a few seconds before the bear fled into the brush, occurred when Saunders and her husband were standing on a rock outcropping to get a better view while hiking in an off-trail area with heavy brush and poor visibility, officials said.

Park service officials said they did not know why the bear had attacked but said the animal could have been surprised because it was a brushy area.

Rangers have been trying to locate the bear to determine whether any action was needed to remove it from the area located at the popular Savage River drainage near the park's entrance or to discourage it from approaching people, the Park Service said.

In the meantime, car-parking areas and a section of the river drainage have been closed, and will remain so for several days, the Park Service said.

There has never been a fatal bear mauling in the park's history but there have been occasional attacks, some of them serious, said Park Service spokeswoman Jane Ahern.

Denali National Park and Preserve, one of Alaska's top tourist destinations, sprawls over 6 million acres (2.5 million hectares). It is best known as the site of 20,320-foot (6,200- metre) Mount McKinley, North America's tallest peak, and for its abundant wildlife, including bears, wolves, caribou and moose.

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