‘I’m so broken’: Wife of Richland County man mauled to death by bear in Alaska speaks

LUCAS, Ohio (WJW)– Her husband was mauled to death by a bear during a hunting trip in Alaska. Now, a Richland County woman is sharing her heartbreaking story with FOX 8 News.

Ryleigh Pfeiffer said her husband, 22-year-old Austin Pfeiffer, of Mansfield, was an outdoorsman, who loved to hunt and fish. He worked as an arborist for a tree service.

“When Austin wasn’t working, he was outside, hiking, hunting, just enjoying everything God had to offer,” she said. “Austin was such a kind, caring patient man and he loved me, his family and friends.”

Speaking with us at one of her husband’s favorite places, the Mount Jeez Overlook at Malabar Farm State Park, Austin Pfeiffer’s wife of two years said her husband traveled to Alaska two weeks ago for a moose hunting trip at the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. Ryleigh Pfeiffer was stunned when she received a call from a friend on Monday, indicating that her husband had been killed in Alaska, mauled to death by a grizzly bear.

“I thought it was a joke at first because it’s so unbelievable, to think that my husband wasn’t coming back home,” she said. “I’m so broken and so sad that he’s gone. We had so much life ahead of us and that was really cut short, but I know he made some great memories.”

Park rangers in Alaska said the tragic incident began to unfold on Saturday night when Austin Pfeiffer and his hunting partner killed a moose in the national park. They field dressed the carcass and returned the next morning to carry the meat back to their campsite.

Rangers said it appears the grizzly bear was drawn by the smell and attacked Austin Pfeiffer so suddenly that he could not defend himself. The bear then encountered his partner and charged at him, but he was able to fire several shots at the bear, which then retreated.

Austin Pfeiffer’s wife said he had been planning the trip to Alaska for the past two years and she is now trying to come to grips with how his life was taken while he was doing what he loved.

“It’s going to be really hard, it’s going to be so hard, and we’re going to have ups and downs definitely, but God is carrying me through all of this,” she said.

Park rangers in Alaska said the death of Austin Pfeiffer is the first recorded fatal bear mauling at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, since the 13 million acre park was established in 1980.

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