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Woman attacked by bear while running marathon; survived by playing dead

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ALLES CALDERA NATIONAL PRESERVE, N.M. — Wildlife officials in New Mexico say a woman was attacked by a bear while she was running a marathon in northern New Mexico on Saturday.

Karen Williams was running when a female black bear confronted her, according to the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. According to reports, the bear’s cub was spooked and ran up a nearby tree.

Williams played dead for 10 minutes while she waited for other joggers and emergency crews to arrive. She was airlifted to a local hospital where she was treated for facial injuries and lacerations.

The bear was captured and euthanized.

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

Williams shared her full story on the Valles Calderas Runs Facebook page:

She wrote:

“I was at mile 23.5 per Garmin and coming up a little rise just before that terrible off-trail uphill. There was some sort of seep or pond or mucky area at the top of that little hill and when I topped it a bear was charging me.

She was about 15 ft away. I raised my arms and yelled “NO!” then saw the cub. 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. 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”.

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. Then I tried to look around but was having trouble seeing much. I tried to sit up but was nauseated and my arms didn’t seem to work right.

After 14 hours at UNMH and a cool helicopter ride and a very bumpy ambulance ride prior it turns out that I have a fractured right orbit from the mean left hook, missing parts of eyelid and eyebrow, injury to the belly of my left bicep and a lot of punctures and lacerations. But I am alive. Unfortunately the bear is not. Game and Wildlife found her and she is being tested for rabies. They are hoping to catch her cub/cubs.”