Fish and Game still seeks bear in Eagle River maulings
State officials are still trying to find the brown bear sow responsible for two Eagle River maulings last month including one that was fatal, after killing three bears last week and catching others in nearby traps.
The brown bear sow killed last week with two cubs was not the bear that killed 44-year-old hiker Michael Soltis in June, according to DNA tests conducted by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Biologist said in a Friday statement that DNA samples showed the same bear that killed Soltis near Hiland Road also mauled a man that was searching for him on June 20. Fish and Game says it appears that non-fatal mauling happened because the bear was keeping the searcher away from Soltis' body. They say the searcher's mauling happened with 10 to 20 yards from where the body was cached.
Soltis had been killed a day or two before the searcher was mauled. They do not know whether the bear attacked Soltis as a predatory move, or because it was surprised.
The Hiland Road attacks happened in a residential area that is also near a popular recreational trail.
Bruce Dale, the director of Fish and Game's Division of Wildlife Conservation, says they have consulted with other bear behavior experts.
“The consensus is that bears exhibiting these behaviors could be a further danger to people,” Dale said.
Protecting the public is a priority, Fish and Game said, and biologists are continuing to search for the bear involved in the attacks.
Three black bears have been caught in the live traps set out after the attacks. On July 13, biologists shot a brown bear sow and two cubs, after multiple reports of aggressive behavior in the area.
Since the killing of the brown bear sow and cubs, reports of aggressive bear behavior has decreased.
“Unfortunately, that was not the bear we’ve been looking for,” said Anchorage-based Fish and Game biologist Dave Battle. "Although we don’t have a population estimate, we believe brown bears are plentiful in the area.”
Fish and Game officials considered tranquilizing bears in the area, taking DNA samples and fitting them with radio collars -- a step that might help track down a bear that matched evidence collected from the mauling victims. That plan, however, was discounted as being too risky and taking too long.
Although the tracking plan would spare bears not involved in the attacks, it could take up to a week for test results to come back, a delay Battle called an "unacceptable public safety risk."
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