Alaska’s 29th annual Robert Spurr Memorial Hill Climb took a turn for the worse Sunday, as one of the mountain run’s competitors, a 16-year-old boy, was killed by a bear during the race, according to Anchorage's KTTU News. The teen’s name has yet to be released, but the Anchorage Police Department said the boy had sent a text to his mother during the race to tell her he was being chased by a bear.
The race, which stretches between Anchorage and Girdwood, includes heavily wooded terrain and features a 3,400-foot vertical climb. Adults take on a portion of the mountain that covers three miles of terrain, and participants under 17 generally run half of that. Dozens of Alaskans participate in the run each year, and bear encounters rarely turn deadly.
"I’ve been running the mountains for 30 years," Bard Percosky, the race director, told KTUU News. "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."
Some of the race participants reported seeing black and brown bears during the competition Sunday, Percosky said.
'There was a brown bear sighting; there was a black bear with cubs sighting," he said, adding, "We didn’t know which was which."
The teen had been running with a pack of competitors who reportedly lost track of him at some point. Not long after he had separated from the group, another runner claimed he saw a bear circling the boy. Some of the competitors who had already finished the race went back into the woodland and found the boy's body about a mile up the path, and a large black bear standing about 10 feet away in the brush.
APD, the Anchorage Fire Deptartment, Alaska State Troopers, the National Guard and park rangers also helped in the search for the boy. A park ranger confirmed shooting at a 250-pound bear. The bear ran away after being hit in the face.
Officials airlifted the teen’s body, which was discovered about 1,500 feet above the trail’s finish line.
The boy’s death comes nearly a month after a Canadian man survived a black bear attack. Richard Wesley, a hunter in Ontario, was filming the bear before it charged at him back in May and knocked the camera out of his hand. Wesley suffered only a bruised elbow.
He later posted the video footage on his YouTube page, writing in the caption section: "Genuinely happy that this was a nonfatal or tragic outcome. Proving that the black bear is a wild and unpredictable animal."
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