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Bear kills man clearing a trail near his property in the Hope area

Update, 4:30 p.m. Monday: Troopers identified 46-year-old Daniel Schilling as the man killed by the bear, according to a statement.

Original story:

A man died in a bear attack Wednesday night that occurred off a trail near his property in the Hope area on the Kenai Peninsula, officials said Thursday.

Alaska State Troopers were notified at 10:07 p.m. of the mauling, the agency said in a report early Thursday.

The man had been clearing a trail on Chugach National Forest land about a mile behind his property off Mile 8 of the Hope Highway, troopers said. The property is near the 19th-century mining town of Sunrise City, with a population of 12.

“His wife became concerned when he was overdue, and their dog, which had been with him, returned home alone,” troopers said.

The man’s wounds were consistent with a bear attack, troopers said.

Cynthia Wardlow, Anchorage regional supervisor with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said that staff is assisting state troopers and the U.S. Forest Service on an investigation into the attack. They are searching for evidence such as hair, paw print measurements and scat to determine the species of the bear.

“Based on preliminary samples that were found at the site, we believe this was a brown bear attack,” Wardlow said.

Clay Adam, deputy chief of Cooper Landing Emergency Services, said family and neighbors located the body in the area where the man had been working.

The man’s cabin is about 350 yards off the Hope Highway, Adam said, and the scene of the mauling was about a 45-minute hike up a mountain behind the cabin. Troopers described the trail as not ATV-accessible.

Cooper Landing Emergency Services, arriving at the cabin around 10:30 p.m., was the first emergency crew on site, Adam said. Neighbors with firearms who visited the scene and returned to the cabin confirmed that the man could not have survived the attack, Adam said.

With darkness coming, and after communicating with troopers who had not yet arrived, emergency officials decided that no one should return to the scene until morning when it was safer, Adam said.

“Three or four gentlemen said there was nothing we could do,” Adam said. “It was determined it was in everyone’s best interest to not disturb the scene until it could be processed appropriately.”

“We consoled his wife, and got all the information we could,” he said.

Emergency services departments from Hope and Moose Pass also responded to the call, Cooper Landing Emergency Services said on Facebook, adding that troopers would be recovering the victim Thursday.

“Please respect this victim and their family and the troopers who are hiking in to this difficult, dangerous and tragic scene,” the department said in the post.

Cooper Landing Emergency Services said bears have been active in “residential areas as well as at the Russian and Kenai River so please continue to be bear aware.”

Carol Lagodich, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Forest Service, which manages the Chugach National Forest, said the agency will post signs warning hikers of an aggressive bear. She described the trail as not easily accessible.

Troopers, the Forest Service and Fish and Game staff are working to gather more evidence and information about how and why the fatal attack occurred, according to Wardlow.

It’s early in the investigation and a determination will not be made “until we have a much better sense of what’s going on,” she said.

Most bear encounters do not result in injuries to humans, she said.

“It’s very rare that someone is injured by a bear and even more rare that someone would be killed,” Wardlow said. “It’s always a very tragic situation.”

She said it’s important for anyone active in the Alaska outdoors to understand bear behavior and how to respond appropriately because each encounter is different.

“A lot of it depends on very specific circumstances, like does the bear even see you?” she said. “Is the bear curious? Does the bear respond if you try to scare it off or does it recognize that you’re a human? Any of those things.”

Daily News reporter Emily Goodykoontz contributed.

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