A brown bear that fatally mauled a hiker in Eagle River this week – and later attacked and injured another man – is still on the loose.
The Department of Fish and Game says an autopsy confirmed that 44-year-old Michael Soltis died as a result of the bear attack.
Police say Soltis was last seen Monday night and was on a hike near his home on Hiland Road when the bear attacked. The bear – or possibly a different bear – appeared to be guarding Soltis’s remains when it attacked another man Wednesday who was part of a group searching for Soltis. The second victim was expected to survive.
However, the bear’s fate is uncertain.
Fish and Game spokesperson Ken Marsh says the department has personnel in the area still looking for the bear, as well as game cameras and traps placed on nearby private property. Marsh says they’ll likely have to kill the bear.
“This is a public safety concern,” Marsh said. “If we’re fortunate enough to get a bear coming back to that site, we’re going to have to probably move on it. We just can’t take the chance that we’re letting a dangerous bear go.”
People are still being warned to avoid the area, but Marsh says hikers can encounter bears in just about any part of Alaska. He says preventing negative bear interactions is always important and traveling in groups and making noise while hiking can help. And Fish and Game recommends carrying some kind of deterrent, whether bear spray or a firearm.
Marsh says there was no evidence either man attacked this week was carrying either bear spray or a gun.