ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - A hiker who had been missing for two days was found dead on Wednesday, the victim of a bear attack on the outskirts of Alaska’s biggest city, Anchorage police said.
The body of Michael Soltis, 44, was discovered after a brown bear mauled one of the volunteers searching for the missing man, said MJ Thim of the Anchorage Police Department.
The cause of Soltis’ death has not been confirmed and is still being investigated, but it appears that he was killed by the same bear that attacked the volunteer, Thim said.
“What we believe is the brown bear was protecting its prey, its find, which turned out to be the body of the missing person,” he said.
The initial attack happened in Eagle River, a woodsy suburb of Anchorage. Soltis, who lived near the attack site, was an avid hiker, Thim said. He was last seen late on Monday afternoon, Thim said.
His body was found just off a road in the area, down a steep hill, Thim said.
Officers have not yet found the bear, Thim said, but have set up a perimeter around the attack site and if the bear returns, “we’re prepared to deal with it appropriately,” he said.
The injured searcher was taken to a local hospital with a leg wound and is expected to survive, Thim said.
The Eagle River attack happened almost exactly a year after a 16-year-old Anchorage boy was killed by a black bear during a mountain race in Anchorage.
The city, home to about 40 percent of Alaska’s population, is also habitat for bears, moose, wolves and other wild animals.
Within the limits of the 1,958-square-mile (5,070-square-km) municipality there are 250 to 350 black bears and 55 to 65 brown bears, also called grizzly bears, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Reporting by Yereth Rosen in Anchorage; Editing by Dan Whitcomb And Sandra Maler