'Like Being Struck by Lightning': Black Bears Kill 2 in 2 Days

A second fatal mauling occurs in Alaska
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 20, 2017 4:03 AM CDT
A sign warns people that the trail head is closed on Monday, June 19, 2017, after a fatal bear mauling at Bird Ridge Trail in Anchorage, Alaska. Authorities say a black bear killed a 16-year-old runner...   (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
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(Newser) – Statistics show it's incredibly rare for black bears to kill humans in Alaska—just six such deaths had been recorded since 1880—which makes the news that two fatal black-bear maulings happened over two days there strikingly unusual. The death of 16-year-old Patrick Cooper on Sunday during a trail race was followed on Monday by the killing of a Pogo Mine contractor. The Pogo underground gold mine sits about 300 miles northeast of Anchorage; the Daily News-Miner reports that contract workers were collecting geological samples some distance from camp when the attack occurred. A second worker suffered non-life-threatening injuries and the bear was reportedly shot dead. "Right now we have more questions than answers," says the mine's general manager.

Questions persist around Patrick's death during the Bird Ridge mountain race, too. The Alaska Dispatch News reports the events that led to it are unclear beyond a text message he sent to his family saying he was being chased. Alaska Fish and Game rep Ken Marsh tells the AP the hunt is on for the bear, who was shot in the face and is believed to have attacked in a rare predatory move, rather than as a defensive action. Marsh describes the likelihood of the mauling as "sort of like someone being struck by lightning." The Dispatch News provides more context around the rarity, saying only 10% of bear attacks in the state occur at the hands of black bears. A 64-year-old Fairbanks man mauled in 2013 represents the prior most recent black-bear fatality. Read more about the attack on Patrick here. (Read more black bear stories.)

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