Back-to-back Alaska fatal black bear maulings seen as flukes

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Experts say back-to-back fatal maulings of people by black bears in Alaska appear to be flukes by rogue bears but warn that people venturing into bear habitat should always carry bear repellent spray or guns.

In the first attack, a black bear killed a 16-year-old runner, Patrick Cooper, Sunday after he got lost competing in a mountain race south of Anchorage.

After encountering the bear, Cooper began running, and at one point he reportedly placed a frantic call to his brother, saying he was being chased by a bear Sunday in the Robert Spurr Memorial Hill Climb race south of Anchorage. The brother notified the race director, Brad Precosky, who alerted race crews to begin searching for Cooper, known as Jack.


It took a couple hours for responders to locate the teen, whose body was found about a mile up the path. The bear was found at the site, guarding the body, Precosky said.

A Chugach State Park ranger shot the 250-pound bear in the face, but the animal ran away.

On Monday, a man working at a remote gold exploration site at Pogo Mine was mauled to death. A second worker was injured by the same black bear. No names were released.

Retired state bear biologist John Hechtel tracked Alaska’s fatal bear maulings between 1980 and 2014 and counted only three fatal maulings by black bears.

‘‘It’s very unusual,’’ said Ken Marsh of the state Fish and Game agency. ‘‘It’s sort of like someone being struck by lightning.’’