In a highly unusual and tragic incident, a US Army soldier has died after being attacked by a bear during an active training exercise in Anchorage, Alaska.
The bear attack occurred at Alaska’s Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, which serves as headquarters for the United States Alaskan Command, 11th Air Force, U.S. Army Alaska, and the Alaskan North American Aerospace Defense Command Region.
"A U.S. Army Alaska Soldier died of injuries sustained in bear attack today in a training area west of the Anchorage Regional Landfill," a statement by a Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson spokesperson reads.
"The Soldier was part of a small group training in Training Area 412. The name of the soldier is being withheld pending next-of-kin notification."
The 673d Security Forces Squadron provided the initial emergency response to the incident, while Alaska Wildlife troopers are said to be searching for the bear, and the area closed off for recreation.
It's unclear whether the training exercise at the time of the attack was an armed or unarmed exercise. Routine US military training includes many field exercises that do not involve weapons or live ammo, such as field navigation courses.
A report in Field and Stream last year chronicled that bear attacks in North America are on the rise. Officials have yet to identify the species of bear involved in this latest attack, with black bears and grizzly being the two most common in Alaska - the latter often considered the most aggressive if there's a chance encounter with a human.
Prior years have witnessed occasional attacks and close encounters between bears and troops at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage. For example, there were two non-fatal attacks in only a 2-month span in 2014...
"While there have been a number of fatal bear attacks this year, it’s on par with the number of other high-fatality years in the past," that prior 2021 report observed.
"However bear conflicts—which include negative encounters between bears and humans, pets, livestock, and property—are on the rise in the Lower 48," it continued. "The main cause for this spike is evident: There are more grizzly bears (which are more aggressive than black bears) than there have been since grizzly numbers dwindled in the 1970s. They also occupy a wider range than they used to."