|A sign alerts park users that the Bird Ridge trail is closed, Monday June 19, 2017. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)|
Patrick Cooper died Sunday as the 16-year-old came down Bird Ridge near Anchorage following a mountain race, the victim of an unusual fatal attack involving a black bear.
Experts say fatal maulings by black bears in Alaska are rare.
Until the past few days, only six deaths had been linked to black bears in 130 years, according to a biologist compiling a report on Alaska bear attacks since 1880.
The sequence of events leading to Cooper's death is unknown beyond a text message he sent to a relative, saying he was being chased by a bear as he descended after finishing the 1.5-mile juniors division course of the Robert Spurr Memorial Hill Climb.
A state park ranger shot a black bear found near Cooper's body but the animal ran off.
Little information was available Monday about the attack on the Pogo contractor that left a second contract employee injured.
If black bears are found responsible for both deaths, it represents only the second time in recent history that black bears have killed someone in Alaska.
The last was Robert Weaver, a 64-year-old Fairbanks man who died following a black bear attack at his cabin near Delta Junction in 2013.
Black bears accounted for just 10 percent of bear attacks in Alaska dating back to 1880, according to reports compiled by two biologists working separately.
"The black bear — that's really odd," said Tom Smith, an associate professor at Brigham Young University who's studied bears since he worked as a biologist at Katmai National Park in 1992.