A U.S. Army soldier died on Tuesday after being attacked by a bear while training in Alaska.
According to a news release from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, the soldier was part of a small group of troops conducting exercises in Training Area 412 west of the Anchorage Regional Landfill at the time of the deadly attack.
“The 673d Security Forces Squadron initially responded to the incident. Alaska Wildlife Troopers are currently searching for the bear in TA 412, which is closed to the public for all recreation activity,” the release stated.
The soldier’s identity has not been released pending next-of-kin notification. Additional information will be provided “as it becomes available.”
According to the Alaska Official Visitors’ Guide, around “30,000 brown bears and 100,000 black bears are spread” throughout the state. The guide states that while bear attacks are rare, it’s wise to carry easily-accessible bear spray when hiking.
“Generally speaking, neither bears nor moose want anything to do with you. Try to make noise when you’re on the trails — talking, clapping or singing are all good signals that people are coming,” the guide’s website advises. “If you’re making enough noise that animals can hear your approach and travel slowly enough that they have time to move, you might not even see them.”
A hiker who encounters a bear should “give it plenty of space” and “remain calm” while assessing the situation.
“If it appears that the bear hasn’t seen you, move away slowly, never taking your eyes off it. If it has seen you, face the bear, stand your ground and talk to it in a normal voice so it recognizes you as a human. Try to seem bigger by standing near others in your group or putting your arms above your head. If the bear comes toward you, raise your voice, throw rocks or sticks and use a deterrent like bear spray if you have it,” the guide continues.
The guide warns hikers not to try outrunning a bear because “you can’t” and doing so will “trigger the animal’s prey drive.”
“In the very unlikely event that you are attacked, either play dead or fight back. To play dead, lie as still as possible on your stomach and protect the back of your neck with your hands. If the bear no longer feels you’re a threat, it will most likely leave,” it adds. “Stay motionless as long as you’re able. If the bear sees you moving again, it may renew its attack.”