The 16-year-old victim texted his family that he was being chased by a bear during the race.
The annual Robert Spurr Memorial Hill Climb ended in tragedy Sunday after a junior runner was attacked and killed by what Anchorage police called “a large black bear.”
The teen, who officials have not identified, was pronounced dead at the scene. A team of runners, police, rangers, and race officials found his body and the bear believed to be responsible.
According to Chugach State Park ranger Tom Crockett, the bear escaped after another ranger shot it in the face.
“It did definitely take a slug strike to the face when the ranger fired on it,” he told the Alaska Dispatch.
No other runners were harmed. Many reported seeing bears throughout the race, which includes a 3,400-foot vertical climb spanning three miles up Bird Ridge near Anchorage.
Bear Kills Teen Runner In Chugach
Race director Brad Precosky told the Alaska Dispatch that the boy texted a family member he was being chased by a bear at 12:37 p.m. The family member immediately informed Precosky, who then launched an impromptu search party.
Anchorage Police Department Sgt. Nathan Mitchell told KTUU the victim’s mom was at the race.
“The mother was here with her family, her children,” he said. “They were running the race.”
Precosky told KTUU there were “a dozen runners” who volunteered to search for the boy, whose GPS coordinates the family member had on their phone.
According to KTUU, the APD, the Anchorage Fire Dept., Alaska State Troopers, the National Guard, and park rangers were also part of the search.
The Anchorage Dispatch reported the searchers found the boy’s body some 500 yards off the trail along a steep, wooded slope. It’s unclear how he wound up off the trail.
Rescuers could not immediately reach the boy, because the bear was still near the body.
“The bear was remaining in the area where the young man was laying,” said Crockett.
The bear, reported to be “about 250 pounds,” only retreated into the woods after being shot by the ranger.
As of Sunday night, Rangers and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game were still looking for the wounded animal to capture and kill it.
Robert Spurr Memorial Hill Climb
This year marked the 29th year of the annual trail run southeast of Anchorage. Following the incident, runners reported seeing multiple bears.
“There was a brown bear sighting, there was a black bear with cubs sighting,” Precosky said. “We didn’t know which was which.”
Precosky went on:
“I’ve been running in the mountains for 30 years,” he 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.”
The boy was running in the race’s junior division, which is half as long as the three-mile adult race. Both juniors and adults ascend the Bird Ridge trail, then descend at their leisure for the event.
According to reports, the boy had reached the 1.5-mile turnaround mark and was descending when he was attacked.