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A U.S. Army soldier is dead after being attacked by a bear during a training exercise in Alaska.
According to an army news release, Staff Sgt. Seth Michael Plant was at the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson training area, which is just west of the Anchorage regional landfill. The soldier was part of a group preparing for a land navigation training exercise in area 412 when the attack took place.
The army did specify what kind of bear attacked the soldier or whether the group was carrying deterrents. Speaking to Anchorage Daily News, Captain Derek DeGraaf of the Alaska Wildlife Troopers said that the bear was a sow with one or two cubs, and that a second soldier has since been treated and released for injuries suffered in the encounter. DeGraaf told the New York Times that the attack happened so quickly that soldiers “didn’t even see it coming.”
While attacks like this one are relatively rare, Alaska is the deadliest state when it comes to bear-caused fatalities. Between 2000 and 2017, 8 fatal bear attacks took place in Alaska, accounting for nearly 30% of U.S bear fatalities. Brown bears account for a majority of those deaths.
Still, as the National Park Service points out, deaths from bear attacks are vanishingly rare: Humans have a 1 in 2.1 million chance of being killed by a brown bear. Food allergies, on the other hand, cause about 30,000 hospital visits and 150-200 deaths in the United States per year.
Alaska Wildlife Troopers are currently searching for the bear, which will be euthanized if caught. The area is closed to the public until further notice.
This is a developing story, and Backpacker will update it as more information becomes available.