Bird Ridge Race organizers to discuss fatal bear mauling
Alaska’s mountain running community is still reeling from the death of a 16-year-old boy who was killed by a black bear following the Bird Ridge Race on Sunday. The death is also raising questions about the type of safety precautions that might be necessary going forward.
The death is also raising questions about the type of safety precautions that might be necessary going forward.
Race Director Brad Precosky said volunteers and race organizers planned to meet soon to debrief and discuss what happened. Precosky said he believed the race was conducted safely but several things were being considered for the future, including requiring racers to acquaint themselves with the trail before the race and asking junior racers to come down the mountain in pairs when they have finished their run.
Carrying bear spray wasn’t necessarily first on the list, according to Precosky, who said it could be problematic for racers to carry, especially if a can was accidentally deployed. But, bear spray for racers is being discussed by the mountain runner community.
Matias Saari is a board member of the nonprofit group. He ran the race on Sunday and has also volunteered to help over many years. He said he carries the spray on training runs but never in a race, adding that he has never seen a bear on the mountain where the Bird Ridge race is conducted.
“I have never carried bear spray nor have others,” said Saari. “There’s generally people around, race officials, spectators who have it, but we like to run unencumbered. I think some people may be rethinking that and carrying it in the future.”
Precosky said race directors have decided not to publish Sunday’s race results out of respect for the family, although, he said winners know their status and were able to accept awards at the race’s conclusion. Saari said organizers are also considering naming the juniors division after Patrick Cooper, the boy who was killed.
A memorial service for Cooper has been scheduled for Saturday evening.
Precosky said the family has invited people in the mountain running community to attend.