Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game released new information Monday regarding a bear mauling that occurred in Hope last month, although the full picture of what happened remains unclear.
Three black bears and one brown bear were killed on Aug. 5 by Fish and Game employees as part of the investigation into the death of Daniel Schilling.
Schilling, who was killed July 29, was clearing a trail about a mile behind his property, Alaska State Troopers reported. He was late returning home and his dog returned without him. His body, with wounds consistent with a bear attack, was found by family and friends in the area where had been working, troopers said.
Recent DNA analysis found that one of the black bears shot had been at the site where Schilling was killed, according to a Monday release from the department.
The black bear is not considered to be the cause of Schilling’s death. The initial attack is still believed to have been from a female brown bear, but the brown bear that was killed as part of the investigation did not match the DNA that was found at the attack site. During the initial investigation, DNA samples from both a female black bear and a female brown bear were found on the scene, but the chance that both species were present at the same time is unlikely. Biologists with Fish and Game believe the black bear encountered Schilling’s body after he had been killed.
The cause of the attack is still undetermined, and it may remain unknown whether it was a defensive or predatory attack, wildlife officials said in the release. A discharged bear spray canister was found at the scene, but there were no witnesses to the event. There were also no signs of cubs or a food cache in the area.
The other two black bears and the brown bear killed by Fish and Game did not match any of the samples collected during the initial investigation. All the bears killed were female, but none were with cubs or showed any signs of lactation, according to officials.
“Bear attacks are rare and finding the DNA of two different bear species at the site makes it even more unusual,” the release said. “ADF&G will continue collecting samples when sealing brown bears harvested by hunters and those killed under Defense of Life or Property (DLP) regulations. The area where the attack occurred is remote with challenging terrain and limited access. Additional field operations are not planned at this time.”