Wednesday, March 17, 2010

More Tales From the WTF Files

Currently on my short-list of places not to go running without a large caliber handgun is the seemingly peaceful town of Chignik Lake Alaska, population 105. While getting hit in the back of the head by a silent airplane is a crappy and completely unexpected way to be killed while running, it cannot compare with the horror of being torn apart by wild animals, a fate that met poor Candice Berner this past Monday. Berner went out for a run on a footpath near her home in Chignik on Monday, and was apparently attacked and partially eaten by wolves. 

Berner, a remedial teacher who had moved to Alaska from Pennsylvania last August, (I wonder if she ever ran the Philadelphia Marathon…), was killed as she was running on a deserted road near town. An autopsy confirmed that she had been stalked and taken down by a pack of wolves, which dragged her off the road. Her partially eaten body was discovered by snowmobilers who followed a trail of blood in the snow.

“The damage to the throat was severe,” said Colonel Audie Holloway of the Alaska state troopers. “Wolves, just like big cats, usually attack the windpipe area and try to control the victim that way.”

Unfortunately, it seems that it was running itself which actually triggered the attack. “The whole running thing is something that can elicit a predatory attack,” said Mark McNay, a retired wildlife biologist. “It suggests vulnerability.”

For those of you doing the “running thing” in remote areas known to be frequented by hungry wildlife, please be careful. I remember trail running in California a few years back, in an area known for Mountain Lion activity, and the entire time I was out there I had a terrible feeling that I was being watched. In fact, I was so nervous that when a grey squirrel burst out of the bushes and ran onto the trail in front of me I almost crapped in my shorts.

My deepest condolences to Berner's family and friends. Here in the congested metropolitan area we have to deal with many inconveniences while running, but at least we can be reasonable sure that an animal attack isn’t one of them. Anyway, I hope this is the last entry from the WTF files for a while.

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