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Woman Attacked by a Black Bear While Running a Marathon in New Mexico

A terrifying encounter. A New Mexico woman was attacked by a black bear while running a marathon in the Valles Caldera National Preserve on Saturday, June 18.

Karen Williams was less than three miles away from the finish line when she spotted the wild animal charging at her. According to her post on Facebook, Williams unknowingly startled the female bear’s cub, causing the attack.

An American black bear
An American black bear Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

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“I raised my arms and yelled ‘NO!’ then saw the cub,” she wrote. “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 and shake me. I rolled into a ball and played dead.”

Karen Williams marathon bear attack
Karen Williams’ data from her Garmin watch during the marathon and bear attack. Courtesy Garmin

The bear then wandered off to check on her cub, who climbed up a tree, but “kept glancing my way to make sure that I was still ‘dead,’” the Los Alamos, New Mexico, resident said.

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“I was at that point afraid I might die,” she continued. “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.”

Thirty-three minutes later, another runner came across Williams and called for help. She was airlifted by helicopter to the University of New Mexico Hospital, where she was treated for 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.”

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According to NBC News, wildlife officials tracked down the black bear and euthanized it on Sunday, June 19. They are also searching for the bear’s cubs.

“We’re trying to be careful about how we capture them,” a spokesman for the New Mexico Department of Game & Fish told the news outlet. “We don’t want to injure them.”

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