Marathon Runner Recalls Being Mauled After Startling A Family Of Bears

Karen Williams said she survived by playing dead after a mother bear attacked her less than three miles from the finish line.

A marathon runner recalled what it was like to play dead after a black bear attacked her as she was racing through a national preserve over the weekend.

Karen Williams estimates she‎ was less than three miles short of the finish line inside the Valles Caldera National Preserve near Los Alamos, New Mexico, on Saturday when she topped a hill, only to find a mother bear "charging" at her, she wrote on Facebook.

"I raised my arms and yelled 'NO!' then saw the cub," she posted on Valles Caldera Runs' Facebook page on Sunday, along with a photo that showed her bruised and bandaged. "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."

Williams said she continued to lie there for several minutes as the mother bear went to check on her cubs -- finding one of them 30 feet up in a tree.

The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, which confirmed Williams' identity to The Huffington Post on Tuesday, said there were three cubs in all.

"The cub cried a bit while trying to get down the tree. 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. I didn't know what the wound on my neck was like because I did not move for fear she would come wail on me some more. I waited about 10 minutes until the huffing she was doing was gone and I couldn't hear the cub anymore."

Williams said she waited like this for about 30 minutes before fellow runners found her. She credited them with providing immediate help until she could be airlifted to an Albuquerque hospital.

"I had blood in my eyes and a flap hanging over one so I couldn't really see anybody but I recognized Ken's calm voice," Williams wrote, acknowledging a fellow runner she identified as Ken O'Connor.

A fire official said the weekend attack by a black bear (not the one pictured) was the first to occur in the area in years.
A fire official said the weekend attack by a black bear (not the one pictured) was the first to occur in the area in years.

In the end, Williams suffered severe but non-life-threatening injuries, NMDGF stated.

Williams described her injuries as a fractured right eye socket -- from the bear's "mean left hook." She's also missing parts of an eyelid and eyebrow and suffered injuries to her stomach and left bicep and "a lot of punctures and lacerations."

New Mexico state law required the mother bear to be euthanized and tested for rabies. Officials tracked the bear down and confirmed its identity using a description and a GPS tracker the animal had been wearing as part of a previous study, NMDGF stated in a release.

“It is regrettable when a wildlife encounter results in human injuries and requires we euthanize the animal,” said NMDGF Director Alexandra Sandoval. “We are thankful that the injuries sustained by the victim were not worse and are hopeful that she is able to recover quickly.”

Williams also expressed heartache over the tragic outcome.

"I am really sorry that the mama bear died. She was just being a bear," she wrote.

The Valles Caldera National Preserve, where a bear attacked marathon runner Karen Williams on Saturday.
The Valles Caldera National Preserve, where a bear attacked marathon runner Karen Williams on Saturday.

La Cueva Fire District Chief Lee Taylor told New Mexico's KOB-TV that the bear attack was the first in several years.

"She was just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Taylor told the local news station. “She got into the sow's territory and she was just being protective of her young."

As of Tuesday morning, officials had not located the mother bear's cubs. If they're captured, they will be moved to the New Mexico Wildlife Center, NMDGF spokesman Lance Cherry told HuffPost.

"We're continuing to use live traps to attempt to capture them," Cherry said. "Based on current habitat conditions ... even if we don't capture them, I think they have a better-than-average chance of survival."

Williams did not immediately return a request for comment from HuffPost.

HuffPost

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