A soldier who was fatally mauled by a bear in Alaska has been identified by the US Army as a paratrooper and veteran of the war in Afghanistan.
Staff Sgt Seth Michael Plant, 30, was attacked during a training assignment at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage on Tuesday.
The native of St Augustine, Florida, was declared dead later that day. Another soldier was also injured, officials are still searching for the bear.
The attack happened in a remote corner of the over 64,000 acre base, which is the largest military installation in Alaska.
“Staff Sgt Plant was an integral part of our organisation,” his commander, Lt Col David Nelson, said in a statement on Thursday.
“He was a positive and dedicated leader who brought joy and energy to the paratroopers who served with him,” he continued, adding that “his loss is deeply felt”.
He enlisted in the Army in 2015, and was stationed at the base in July 2021.
It’s believed a brown bear attacked the soldier, Alaska’s fish and game department said on Thursday evening, likely “a defensive attack by a female bear protecting her cubs”.
Game cameras later recorded an adult bear approaching the den after nightfall and leaving with the cubs.
“We are trying to learn everything we can about what happened to increase public safety around wildlife in Alaska,” regional supervisor Cyndi Wardlow said in a statement.
Officials are still trying to locate the bear, which may be killed as it was involved in a fatal attack.
The New York Times, citing an Alaska Wildlife Trooper, reported that the men were attacked after stumbling upon the bear den while scouting a possible wilderness training site.
“From the soldier’s perspective, there was a flash of brown mass,” Capt Derek DeGraaf told the newspaper. “They were attacked and didn’t even see it coming.”
The military has not described what protective gear the troops may have been carrying, including whether they had a commonly available type of chemical pepper spray used to stop a charging bear.
The US Army Criminal Investigation Division is looking into the death, as they do for any deaths that occur on an army base.