Bear kills runner who texted to say he was being chased during Alaska mountain run
A 16-year-old runner who texted his mother that he was being chased by a bear as he competed in a popular race over mountainous terrain was killed Sunday just south of Anchorage.
The teenage boy, whose identity has not been released, was competing in the juniors division of the Robert Spurr Memorial Hill Climb, a race that is in its 29th year. The race director told KTUU that the runner was beginning his descent near the halfway point on Bird Ridge Trail, which takes runners up a mountain that rises over the Seward Highway between Anchorage and Girdwood. Juniors race to the halfway point, about 1.5 miles from the start, before heading down.
"The mother was here with her family, her children," Anchorage Police Dept. Sgt. Nathan Mitchell told KTUU. "They were running the race."
Sightings and encounters with bears are not unusual in Alaska. "I've been running in the mountains for 30 years," Brad Precosky, a race director, said. "People come down off the trail and say they've run into a bear. Sometimes that means nothing; other times, it's really serious. Like this."
When a member of the runner's family received the text message, he sought Precosky. "I went off and talked to him about it, trying to get a straight story," Precosky said. "He was very shaken and had received this communication."
Other runners say they had lost the teen in thick brush and, when they came running down the trail to report the attack, runners and officials ran to help. One runner said he had seen a bear circling a teen. Using GPS coordinates from the teen's phone, searchers were able to find the boy, but were unable to immediately close in.
"The bear was remaining in the area where the young man was laying," Tom Crockett, a Chugach State Park ranger told the Alaska Dispatch News. A ranger shot the bear in the face, but it fled and officials from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game as well as rangers were searching for it.
"There was a brown bear sighting, there was a black bear with cubs sighting," Precosky said. "We didn't know which was which."
The boy, who was pronounced dead at the scene, was found about a mile up the trail on what Mitchell said was "really, really rugged" terrain at about 1,500 vertical feet. His body was airlifted off the mountain.
"This young man didn't do anything wrong," Crockett said. "He was just in the wrong place. You can't predict which bear is going to be predatory."