South Fork trailhead reopened — but officials urge caution

Friday, August 17, 2018 - 12:19
  • Kristen Pettit of Lisle, Illinois takes a photo of a closure sign at the South Fork Eagle River trailhead on Thursday, July 19, 2018. Pettit and her family planned to hike the trail Thursday morning, but chose a different hike after learning of the trail closure. (Matt Tunseth/Alaska Star)

A popular trailhead in Eagle River that leads hikers to Eagle and Symphony lakes was reopened on Friday, just over a month after a brown bear sow in the area killed one man and injured another.

Chugach State Park announced the reopening of the South Fork Eagle River trail in a Facebook post on Friday. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is still searching for a dangerous bear in the area, the post said, “please consider choosing an alternate venue for your hike.”

The trailhead is across a river and roughly a mile away from where a brown bear sow killed 44-year-old Michael Soltis and later attacked 51-year-old Paul Vasquez in June, said Ken Marsh, a Fish and Game spokesman. Fish and Game was resetting live bear traps in the area of the mauling sites on Monday, he said. The traps are on private property.

DNA tests revealed that the same brown bear sow attacked Soltis and Vasquez, according to Fish and Game.

It’s believed Soltis went out for a hike on June 18. He never returned. On June 20, Vasquez was with a group searching for Soltis when he was mauled in a brushy area a short distance from Hiland Road, near an informal trail. Fish and Game said the bear was guarding Soltis’ body at the time.

Earlier this month, Fish and Game shot and killed a brown bear sow and two cubs within a half-mile of the June mauling sites. DNA tests later showed the bears were not involved in the maulings. Fish and Game has yet to find the bear responsible for the attacks.

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