A 300-pound grizzly bear that killed an Anchorage couple along a river in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was a normal 9-year-old male...
ANCHORAGE — A 300-pound grizzly bear that killed an Anchorage couple along a river in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was a normal 9-year-old male with no signs of health problems, investigators said yesterday.
An examination at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, found the animal was normal-sized for a male grizzly this time of year on the North Slope, said Cathie Harms, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Fish and Game in Fairbanks.
The bear’s carcass showed no apparent signs of illness, weakness or injury. The bear was more than 6 feet tall, and its footprints matched those found at the campsite, Harms said.
The necropsy did not reveal why the bear attacked Richard Huffman, 61, and Kathy Huffman, 58, whose bodies were found June 25 in a tent near the Hulahula River. Additional tests on the animal were scheduled.
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It did show that the bear was shot four times through the legs, head and heart, Harms said. A rafter had seen the grizzly at the site and notified authorities in Kaktovik. Authorities killed the animal after they found it lingering at the campsite.
The Huffman’s campsite was clean, with food stored in bear-proof containers and an unused firearm in the tent.
The couple had been on a recreational rafting trip and were in the tent when the attack occurred, said Tim DeSpain, spokesman for Alaska State Troopers.
Richard Huffman was an attorney with the Anchorage law firm Kemppel, Huffman and Ellis. Kathy Huffman was a retired school teacher.
There were no other people at the campsite, which was about 12 miles upriver from Kaktovik, a community of about 300 on Barter Island and the only village in the refuge.
Nearly 500 bear attacks, most in southern Alaska, were recorded in the state between 1900 and 2002 by the U.S. Geological Survey. Fewer than 60 have been fatal, according to the federal agency’s study.
“If bears really, really, really wanted to kill people, they could,” Harms said. “They have thousands of opportunities every year, but they don’t.”