(HorizonPost.com) – A skull found in Alaska in 1997 has been identified as that of a missing New York man. The cause of the man’s death was likely to have been a bear mauling, said investigators, who used genetic genealogy to identify the remains. Alaska State Troopers announced that the dead man was Gary Frank Sotherden. A statement from the Alaska Department of Public Safety said that Troopers received a report that a human skull had been found on the banks of the Porcupine River near the Canadian border. The Troopers did not find any further remains at that time. Mr. Sotherden went missing on a hunting trip in the area in the early 1970s, according to a relative.
The skull was initially discovered in 1997 but cold case detectives used new technology to re-examine the case last year. Arrangements are being made to return the remains to New York.
Officials in Alaska have said the most likely cause of death was a bear attack. The National Park Service issues extensive guidance on handling encounters with bears and describes the differences in their behavior. Its advice includes, “If you surprise a black bear and it charges or attacks, fight back with everything you have!” If encountering a grizzly bear, however, it is advised not to take the animal on.
Alaska has the highest number of bear attacks each year. The state accounts for 29.6% of such attacks nationwide. It is one of the few places where the Black Bear, Grizzly Bear, and Polar Bear live in the same territory. Across the US, there are around 55,000 Grizzly Bears, 300,000 Black Bears, and somewhere between 4,000 and 7,000 Polar Bears in the northern reaches of Alaska. The Grizzly is the most ferocious of the three and is responsible for most attacks on humans. The enormous predator can weigh up to 1,000 pounds and can be encountered only in Wyoming, Idaho, Washington, Montana, and Alaska.
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