Alaska News

DNA tests show 4 bears killed near Hope were not responsible for fatal mauling

DNA from a black bear is linked to a fatal July 29 bear mauling near Hope, confirming that both a brown and black bear visited the scene of the attack, Alaska wildlife officials said Tuesday.

Daniel Schilling, 46, was killed on July 29 about a mile behind his property at Mile 8 of the Hope Highway.

About a week after the fatal mauling wildlife officials killed four bears in the area as they investigated the cause of the attack. The matching DNA announced Monday came from one of the female black bears killed, Fish and Game said. DNA from the other three bears killed, two black bears and a brown bear, did not match any samples collected at the scene.

Biologists still believe a lone brown bear attacked and killed Schilling.

“The chance that a brown bear and a black bear were present at the site during the same time is unlikely,” the Alaska Department of Fish and Game wrote in a statement Monday.

Instead, biologists “believe the black bear encountered Mr. Schilling’s body after he was deceased.”

Biologists still don’t know if the attack was defensive or predatory, the Fish and Game statement said,


Two different species of bear at the scene of the same attack on a human is rare, the officials said.

“Bear attacks are rare and finding the DNA of two different bear species at the site makes it even more unusual,” the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said in a statement Monday.

Schilling was clearing brush from a mountainous area behind his cabin, just off the Hope Highway. An empty bear spray canister with the safety off was recovered near his body, biologists have said.

Schilling’s death is the only fatal bear mauling in Alaska reported this summer.

Michelle Theriault Boots

Michelle Theriault Boots is a longtime reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. She focuses on in-depth stories about the intersection of public policy and Alaskans' lives. Before joining the ADN in 2012, she worked at daily newspapers up and down the West Coast and earned a master's degree from the University of Oregon.