"This is the worst thing that could happen," says the director of an Alaska trail race that ended in tragedy Sunday. A 16-year-old participant was killed by a black bear while descending the Bird Ridge mountain trail. The Alaska Dispatch News reports the unidentified teen had made it to the turnaround point and was on his way back to the trailhead when a bear apparently began chasing him. He alerted his mother to his situation via text at 12:37pm local time, reports KTUU; KTVA adds that he also called his brother. A "very shaken" relative—it's unclear who—told race director Brad Precosky what was going on. A search started immediately, bolstered by searchers' ability to track the teen's phone, but was then thwarted.
"The bear was remaining in the area where the young man was laying," says a park ranger. The roughly 250-pound bear was then shot in the face but fled; rangers are trying to track it down and kill it. As for the runner, his body was found about a quarter-mile off the trail in a very steep area heavily populated with trees. It's not known if the bear chased him there or if he arrived at the spot in some other way. The ranger says bears aren't often seen on Bird Ridge, but Precosky tells a different story. "I've been running in the mountains for 30 years"—this was the 29th year the race was held—and "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." (This forest cop died after surprising a bear.)