A 16-year-old male runner is dead after being mauled by a black bear during a race in Bird Creek Sunday.
The teen, identified Monday as 16-year-old Patrick Cooper, was running the Bird Ridge Junior Divison race when he got lost and veered off the trail, according to Park Ranger Tom Crockett with Chugach State Park. Shortly after, he called his brother, who was also racing, to say he was being attacked by a bear, Crockett added. The brother was near the finish line when it happened and ran to race officials for help. He also notified their mother.
Searchers were able to figure out where Patrick was by tracking his cell phone.
People in the area volunteered to help find the teen. The first person to find Patrick’s body was Anchorage Assemblyman John Weddleton who warned others to get back.
“So, I got kind of through the brush, down a couple a hundred feet off the trail and… the bear came rushing out of some bushes,” Weddleton said. “So, I’m yelling ‘bear!’ to warn the other people — ‘Bear, Bear, Bear!'”
Troopers and Park Rangers saw the black bear and shot at it but say it may still be out there. Crockett said the bear seemed to be a predatory bear, as opposed to a defensive, which is rare.
The area where the boy was found was rugged, so, the fire department called National Guard PJs (Pararescue Crew) who retrieved the body by helicopter.
Race Director Brad Precosky said he saw a brown bear when the race started but went back and the bear was gone.
Currently, the Bird Ridge parking lot is closed at both ends.
Park Rangers say they made a sweep of the trail to make sure no one else was up there. They plan to look more for the bear on Monday.