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Brown bear sought in fatal Eagle River mauling eludes traps

  • Author: Matt Tunseth, Alaska Star
  • Updated: June 26, 2018
  • Published June 25, 2018

An Alaska Department of Fish and Game pickup truck prepares to haul a bear trap up Hiland Road on Wednesday, June 20, 2018.  (Matt Tunseth / ADN)

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game continued Monday to search for a brown bear thought to be responsible for two maulings in the South Fork Eagle River Valley last week.

Department spokesperson Ken Marsh said biologists are still trying to trap and kill the bear, but so far had not been successful. Marsh said he couldn't say exactly how long the ongoing operation will continue.

Biologists have had live traps set in the woods near the end of Hiland Road since Wednesday, the same day a volunteer searcher was injured by a brown bear while searching for missing hiker Michael Soltis. Within an hour of the mauling, Soltis's body was found in a wooded area about a half-mile from his home; an autopsy by the State Medical Examiner's office determined he was killed by a bear. Soltis was an avid hiker, and his family speculated he left his home for an evening hike Monday and was attacked.

The incidents were the latest in a string of bear problems in the Chugiak-Eagle River area since May, when a brown bear was shot after breaking into a chicken coop near Beach Lake. Later that month, two black bears were killed near the Eagle River Nature Center and on Monday, June 18, biologists killed two bears killed in the Eagleridge neighborhood after the animals were caught repeatedly getting into trash cans. Two days later, a third brown bear was shot in Eagleridge for the same reason.