Bear Attack Leaves Teen With "Extensive" Injuries

A grizzly sow is suspected in the mauling of the teenage rider. Photo courtesy the AP.

by Jamey Kirk

A bear attack over the weekend has left a teenage girl in critical condition. The 14-year-old girl was participating in an all-night mountain bike race when she was attacked in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The girl was discovered by Peter Basinger, another race competitor, around 1:30 a.m. on the Rover's Run trail. Basigner heard the girl's phone ringing off the trail, as Dispatchers were trying to return the call she had made.

Running parallel to the trail is the south fork of Campbell Creek, a stream with a heavy salmon run that is often fished by grizzlies. "Bear" was all the girl could say when Basigner found her.

Medics, under the protection of Anchorage Police Officers armed with 12-gauge shotguns, arrived 25 minutes later. Emergency responders were forced to hike about a half mile from South Bivouac trailhead to reach the girl, and then carry her back on stretcher over the same route, to get her to a waiting ambulance.

Identifying information and the nature of the girls injuries have not been released.

State biologist, Rick Sinnott, believes the bear is a grizzly, and may be the same sow that charged a couple of joggers two weekends ago on a neighboring trail.

The girl was one of about 60 participants in a 24-hour race spoonsored by the Arctic Bicycle Club. The race was scheduled to run from noon on Saturday to noon on Sunday. Normally the race would have been run at Kincaid Park, but due to construction it was moved to Hillside.

A prerace safety meeting specifically mentioned bears and moose as possible threats along the trail, which is why racers were barred from listening to headphones as they rode. According to race director Greg Matyas, the girl's bike was equipped with bear bells and two lights, one on her helmet and one on her bike.

The race was called off following the attack.

After coming off the Gasline Trail north of Hilltop and entering Rover's Run the bear attacked the girl, ripping her helmet off. Basigner found in in the woods, and according to authorities the helmet was pocked with the bear's teeth marks, which may have prevented further injury.

According to Sinnott who spoke with emergency responders, the girl suffered bites to her head, torso and thigh, along with a "sucking chest wound" caused by a puncture to the lung cavity.

Sinnott suggested that the bear most likely was fishing for salmon and didn't hear the biker coming due to the noise of the creek and night's strong winds.

Sinnott has advised residents to avoid Rover's Run and other connecting trails.