Rare spate of bear attacks leaves two dead in Alaska

Four people have been attacked in less than a week, resulting in two fatalities, in what wildlife experts are calling ‘a lightning strike’

A warning sign in Anchorage, Alaska, after a 16-year-old runner was recently killed by a black bear. There have only been six fatal bear attacks in the state in 130 years. Photograph: Mark Thiessen/AP

Alaska is experiencing a spate of bear attacks, with four people attacked in less than a week, resulting in two fatalities.

Two men, Alex Ippoliti and James Fredrick, were cycling in a woodland near Anchorage on Saturday when Fredrick was attacked, causing him to suffer lacerations to his neck and lose part of his biceps muscle. Ippoliti managed to stave off the assailant, which may have been guarding a nearby cub, with bear spray.

The attack came a week after two fatal bear maulings. Erin Johnson, a newlywed, was collecting geological samples near a mine around 275 miles north-east of Anchorage when she was set upon by a “hyper-aggressive bear”. Johnson died and her colleague Ellen Trainor was injured. Officials killed the bear later that day.

That incident came a day after a 16-year-old boy was chased and killed by a black bear while running a race near Anchorage. Patrick Jack Cooper managed to call his family shortly before the bear attacked him.

A park ranger shot the 250lbs bear in the face but it ran away. State biologists subsequently shot and killed four black bears in the Bird Ridge area, including the one they believe attacked Cooper.

Such attacks are rare. Rick Sinnott, a wildlife biologist who previously worked at Alaska’s department of fish and game, said there have only been six fatal bear attacks in the state in 130 years of records.

“So all of the sudden to have two in the course of two days, it’s a lightning strike,” Sinnott told CBS.

It is particularly unusual for black bears, North America’s most common bear species, to be involved in fatalities. Brown bears have more of a reputation for…

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