June 28, 2005

Grizzly bear kills couple in Alaska’s Arctic Refuge

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - An Anchorage couple on arafting trip in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge waskilled by a grizzly bear over the weekend, the first recordedfatal bear attack in the protected area, officials said onMonday.

The victims, Rick and Kathy Huffman, aged 61 and 58respectively, appeared to have taken proper precautions againstbears but the animal that attacked them appeared to have been arare predatory animal, said Bruce Woods, a spokesman for theU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"It was just one of those horrible cases when doingeverything right isn't enough," Woods said, adding that thebear that attacked the couple had been killed on Saturday.

The attack occurred at a campsite about 12 miles upstreamalong the Hulahula River from the Inupiat Eskimo village ofKaktovik.

A guide bringing a German television crew down the riverspotted the bear in the Huffman's wrecked camp, but the animalwas aggressive so the guide called local law-enforcementofficials, Woods said.

Officials planned to retrieve the victims' personal itemsfrom the site and a necropsy of the bear would be performed, hesaid.

It was the first fatal bear attack on record in the 19million-acre refuge, recently in the news because of the Bushadministration's plans to allow oil drilling along the coast.

About 1,500, tourists visit the remote refuge each year.