Hope man dies after bear mauling

Jul 31, 2020

Credit U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A man was killed by a bear last night near the town of Hope.

The Alaska Wildlife Troopers say the man was clearing brush near his property off the Hope Highway, around mile 8, near the community of Sunrise. Troopers say his wife became worried when he didn’t return on time and his dog returned without him.

Family and friends located his body with wounds consistent with a bear attack on a trail described as not ATV-accessible. The search party left right away.

Most of the land around Hope is in the Chugach National Forest. Forest spokesperson Carol Lagodich says the area is not off a publicly accessible trail and that the forest service has posted some signs. She referred questions about the investigation to the Alaska State Troopers.

While bear maulings happen with some regularity on the Kenai Peninsula, fatal ones are not terribly common. Between 2000 and 2017, there were 68 reports of bear attacks requiring hospitalizations, with 20 of those on the peninsula, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, which compiled a report of bear attack reports in 2019. Most of the people hospitalized were Alaska residents. During those same years, there were only 10 reports of deaths statewide related to bear attacks in 8 separate incidents. In half of those incidents, the victim was alone.

The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge has reported a few incidents of bear encounters this summer, including a bear bluff charging some hikers on the Skilak Lookout Trail last Sunday. The best recommended deterrents are to travel in groups, make plenty of noise, avoid thick brush and traveling near loud streams where you can surprise a bear, and carry bear deterrents as a last line of defense. Avoiding bear encounters in the first place is the best way to avoid injury, according to the DHSS study.

The troopers say they will release more information when they complete their investigation.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at eearl@kdll.org.