Fatal mauling of teen shows danger Alaska athletes face

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) Athletes who run wilderness races in Alaska know bear encounters are an inherent possibility. Much of the vast state is bear country, after all, and even the competitions themselves can come with warnings or liability waivers for participants to sign.

Competitors note that races involve large noisy crowds, which can spook the animals away from the action. Still, there's no guarantee of 100 percent safety, as a weekend mountain race proved with the fatal mauling of a 16-year-old boy.

Patrick Cooper had already turned around after reaching the halfway point Sunday when he somehow veered off the trail and became lost during the popular Robert Spurr Memorial Hill Climb race south of Anchorage. That's when the Anchorage teen encountered the black bear that would take his life in a rare predatory attack.

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