Marathons are a test of endurance and fitness, pitting the human body against both physical and mental barriers. Runners in long-distance marathons have to contend with a lot of things, but bears are not usually considered one of the obstacles. New Mexico wildlife officials say a black bear attacked a woman participating in the Valles Caldera Runs event in Valles Calderas National Preserve on Saturday. According to New Mexico Game and Fish, the runner ran into a bear sow and her cubs as she was running along a trail. The woman received several non-life threatening wounds, including multiple bite and scratch marks on the upper body.
“Nearby joggers provided immediate assistance until additional help could arrive,” Game and Fish said. “She was airlifted to an Albuquerque area hospital where she is being treated for her injuries.”
Roughly 350 people participated in the marathon, and at least 150 people had passed the spot where the woman was attacked. According to the director of the marathon, Kris Kern, eyewitnesses say the woman ran past a black bear, sending it scurrying up a tree. Unfortunately for the runner, its mother was nearby and did not take too kindly to her intrusion.
A woman who claimed to be the victim also corroborated the story on Facebook.
“I raised my arms and yelled “NO!” then saw the cub,” wrote Karen Williams on the Valles Caldera Runs group page. “Then I was on my ass and being raked with claws and bitten. I cried out in pain and Mama bear did not like that so she hit me with a left hook and bit my neck and started to try to shake me. I rolled into a ball and played dead. She went off about 25 – 30 feet and stopped at the base of a tree and huffed at her cub that was up about 30 feet.”
At that point, Williams said she laid still until the bear left. Thankfully, her injuries were not life-threatening and she was released from the hospital on Sunday.
According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, wildlife officers did succeed in finding the black bear and euthanized it. By law, officials are required to kill bears that have bitten a human and test it for rabies. Although rabies in bears are relatively rare, the surest way to tell if someone has the virus is to test the animal that bit them. Symptoms usually appear only when treatment is no longer possible, so oftentimes victims of animal attacks are given immunoglobulin and vaccine shots as soon as possible. Untreated, rabies has nearly a 100 percent fatality rate.
The sow was believed to have three cubs. Officers are currently searching for them, and if found, will transport the cubs to an animal rehabilitation center.