Wildlife

Brown bear that mauled hunter on Kenai Peninsula found dead

The brown bear sow that mauled a Texas man in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge has been found dead, a day after the man and his brother encountered the bear and its cubs while moose hunting.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service the bear, which had reportedly been shot during the encounter Tuesday in the vicinity of Doroshin Bay at the north end of Skilak Lake, was found near where it attacked 47-year-old Gregory Matthews of Plano, Texas.

"The bear, an adult female, was recovered on Wednesday afternoon," Fish and Wildlife Service officials reported Thursday. "It had been mortally wounded and was found dead approximately 100 yards from the site of the attack."

The Associated Press reported that fishermen who came across Matthews and his brother Roger first reported the mauling to Alaska State Troopers at roughly 6:15 p.m. Tuesday. Gregory Matthews was flown with serious injuries to Central Peninsula Hospital, where he had been listed in good condition Wednesday morning.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game spokesman Ken Marsh said Wednesday the Matthews brothers had been making moose calls and were about 40 yards apart when the sow charged Gregory -- who fired on the bear during the attack but wasn't sure if he hit it. Roger fired two rounds from a .300 Winchester Magnum rifle at the bear, both of which he thought had hit it, before it retreated.

A Fish and Game biologist, a Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement officer and Roger Matthews returned to the field Wednesday to find the bear.

Andy Loranger, the refuge's manager, said Thursday that at least two rounds fired by the brothers hit the bear. Gregory first spotted the sow and its two cubs at a distance of about 20 meters -- suggesting the sow's attack was a defensive response.

"Based on the information that was provided by Roger and to some degree by Gregory, he saw the bears at very close quarters -- he shouted to announce his presence, and the bear immediately charged," Loranger said. "That certainly would typically be considered a defensive situation."

Although the cubs weren't found Wednesday, federal officials believe they may be old enough to take care of themselves.

"It was determined that the adult bear had not been actively nursing, suggesting that the cubs were at least yearlings and possibly two or three years old," federal officials said.

Loranger said those survival chances were a factor in a decision not to further seek the cubs.

"Yearlings' survival chances certainly do increase, and two- and three-year-old cubs would definitely have increased chances of survival," Loranger said. "They did a pretty thorough search yesterday, so we won't be doing an additional search."

The Matthews brothers are expected to file state paperwork on the shooting of the bear, in defense of life and property, within the next two weeks. Fish and Game collected salvageable parts of the animal.

Loranger said bear maulings have increased this year in the refuge area. Soldotna resident Danny High, 62, was attacked by a bear near Mile 11 of Funny River Road last week,

"There's definitely been an uptick in these kind of situations; it's been several years since we've had this many incidents," Loranger said. "There's quite a bit of recreational use in the area, especially for fishing, so we'll being keeping an eye out."

According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, recreational assets in the area -- including a public-use cabin on Doroshin Bay -- remain available for use.

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