Soldier killed in Alaska bear attack from St. Augustine, US Army confirms

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — (AP) — The U.S. Army on Thursday identified the soldier who died this week of injuries sustained during a bear attack in a military training area in Alaska.

The Army in a statement said Staff Sgt. Seth Michael Plant, 30, was pronounced dead at a hospital on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage following the mauling Tuesday. Another soldier received minor injuries in the attack in a training area west of the Anchorage landfill, according to the Army.

Plant was from Saint Augustine, Florida, and had been at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson since July 2021, the Army said in a statement. He was an infantryman from the 3rd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment.

Lt. Col. David J. Nelson, 3rd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment commander, said Plant “always had a smile on his face, he always went above and beyond what was asked of him, and he served as an inspiration to all who had the privilege to know him.”

The Army says the mauling is being investigated.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game said a den with two brown bear cubs was found nearby. The department, in a statement, said after the attack, a brown bear approached the area and officials who responded to the attack used bear spray, an irritant that can deter bears. The bear left, the statement said.

Hair collected during an initial investigation into the attack was consistent with a brown bear, the department said.

The bear attacked in a remote section of the military base, the department said. Cyndi Wardlow, a regional supervisor with the department, said information gathered so far suggests this was a “defensive attack by a female bear protecting her cubs.”

“We are trying to learn everything we can about what happened to increase public safety around wildlife in Alaska,” she said in the statement.

The department said it can kill bears that are considered public safety threats or that are involved in deadly attacks. It said that game cameras the department placed during its investigation indicated that an adult bear had returned to the area and left the den site with the cubs.

The location of the bear that was involved in the Tuesday attack was unknown, the department said.

Last year, a man in Alaska said he survived an attack by a brown bear that he said put its mouth over his head. Also in 2021, a man was rescued by helicopter after being injured when he was mauled by a brown bear while skiing in the state.

Brown bears have an exceptionally acute sense of smell, exceeding that of dogs, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

“In many parts of Alaska, brown bears are capable predators of moose and caribou, especially newborns,” the agency says. “Bears may also be attracted to human camps and homes by improperly stored food and garbage as well as domestic animals.”

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