A teenage boy had passed the halfway point of a popular mountain trail race in Alaska when he somehow veered off the trail, became lost and then encountered the black bear that would take his life in a rare predatory attack.
Patrick Cooper, 16, died on Sunday while competing in the Robert Spurr Memorial Hill Climb south of Anchorage and at one point reportedly placed a frantic phone call to his brother saying he was being chased by a bear.
His brother then alerted race organisers who began searching for the boy.
A couple of hours passed before emergency workers found the boy’s body being guarded by the 113kg bear, which was then shot by rangers before it ran away, race organiser Brad Precosky said.
The boy’s body was airlifted from the scene on Sunday, Alaska State Troopers said, while Fish and Game spokesman Ken Marsh said park authorities were scouring the area for the bear.
Sunday’s attack was believed to have been a rare predatory move, not a defensive action such as when a female bear will protect her cubs, he said.
“It’s very unusual,” Marsh said of the mauling. “It’s sort of like someone being struck by lightning.”
In a separate incident an underground gold mine contractor taking geological samples at Pogo Mine was killed and another was injured when they were set upon by a black bear about 480km northeast of Anchorage on Monday.
Alaska State Troopers and federal mine officials are investigating the mauling.
The last fatal mauling in Alaska occurred near Delta Junction in Alaska’s interior in 2013, when a man was killed by a male black bear, Marsh said. The last fatal bear attack in the greater Anchorage area was in 1995, when two people were killed in the Turnagain Arm area by a brown bear protecting a moose carcass, he said.