Fish and Game sets traps, searches for brown bear that killed hiker

Mike Soltis was found dead following a search for him after he went missing while hiking....
Mike Soltis was found dead following a search for him after he went missing while hiking. Police say he was attacked by a bear. Photo courtesy Seth Claus. (KTUU)
Published: Jun. 21, 2018 at 3:45 PM AKDT
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State biologists set traps Wednesday night and hunted the woods for a brown bear believed to have killed a 44-year-old hiker and mauled a second man who was searching for the hiker.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game spokesman Ken Marsh says the department set out bear traps Wednesday night and collected a DNA sample from the wounds to Paul Vasquez, who was injured by the bear while searching for missing hiker Michael Soltis. Soltis' body was later found on the heavily wooded trail.

Vasquez suffered a leg injury when he stepped in front of volunteer searcher Wendi Yohman as the bear closed in on a narrow trail off Hiland Road.

"The witness that were involved in the attack stated it was a brown bear, all evidence suggest at this point it probably was a brown bear, but we haven't confirmed that yet," Marsh said.

Fish and Game says when it's found, it will be shot, and the department is asking people to stay away from nearby trails at South Fork and Symphony Lake.

"I think we're going to really kind of try to pull out all the stops and really make a real concerted effort to find the animal," Marsh said.

Fish and Game says Soltis' body was recovered and the bear hasn't been seen since the attack on Vasquez.

Soltis, an engineer who specialized in sanitation, worked throughout the state on water treatment projects for the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.

"It was his tenacity, his willingness to go the extra mile, his talent as an engineer, his love for the job and his desire to help people. That's, I believe, what drove him and what's so impressed me with Michael," John Warren, a co-worker at ANTCH, said.

ANTHC says its Facebook page has been flooded with comments from people throughout the state whose lives were affected by Soltis.

"He cared about about the work that he did, he cared about the people that we serve, he was fascinated by the science," Warren said. "And that's what impressed me about him, there was nothing he wasn't afraid to take on, and the harder and the more difficult, the better."