National

Posted: June 21, 2016

Marathon runner plays dead to end bear attack in Valles Caldera National Preserve

Bear Essentials.mp4

By Cox Media Group National Content Desk

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. —

A marathon runner was afraid she would die when she came face to face Saturday with an angry mother bear during a marathon race through New Mexico's Valles Caldera National Preserve, near Los Alamos.

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The woman was taking part in the annual Valles Caldera Runs when she met the bear and her two cubs after cresting a hill in Redondo Meadows. She shared her story in a post on the Runs' Facebook page.

By the time Karen Williams spotted her, the bear was only 15 feet away, Williams wrote. The bear knocked Williams down, raked Williams with her claws and bit her.

"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," she wrote. "I rolled into a ball and played dead."

She lay in the meadow, afraid to move, as the bear went to a nearby tree and huffed at one of her cubs, who had been scared by Williams and took shelter in the branches of the tree.

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"Mama bear kept glancing my way to make sure that I was still 'dead,'" Williams wrote. "I was at that point afraid I might die."

Williams wasn't sure of the extent of her injuries. She waited until the sounds of the bear and her cubs faded into silence before she attempted to look around.

"(I) was having trouble seeing much," she wrote. "I tried to sit up but (I) was nauseated and my arms didn't seem to work right."

She said another runner came upon her about a half-hour after the attack and she was able to get help.

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"There are dozens of other people that helped me and I appreciate them all," she wrote. "Thank you."

She suffered multiple serious injuries, but none of them appeared to be life-threatening. Medics airlifted her to an Albuquerque area hospital for treatment.

"I am alive," Williams wrote. "Unfortunately, the bear is not."

Officials with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish expressed regret Sunday over having to kill the bear, which was tracked by conservation officers and found near the attack site. However, New Mexico law requires that "any wild animal that attacks or bites a human be euthanized and tested for rabies."

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The bear had been part of a study involving wild bears, according to the Department of Game and Fish, and was wearing a GPS collar. The collar helped authorities confirm that the bear that was euthanized was the one responsible for Williams' injuries.

"We are thankful that the injuries sustained by the victim were not worse and are hopeful that she is able to recover quickly," said Alexandra Sandoval, director of the state's Department of Game and Fish.

Conservation officers said they were unable to capture the bear's three cubs on Sunday. Officers said they would continue efforts to catch the young cubs, who they plan to send to the New Mexico Wildlife Center in Espanola for care.

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