By Zelie Pollon
SANTA FE, N.M. (Reuters) - New Mexico game wardens on Monday tracked down and killed a black mother bear that had attacked a marathon runner this weekend in the Valles Caldera National Preserve.
The female runner was participating in an annual race through the 13-mile-wide (21-km-wide) dormant volcano when she apparently surprised the mother bear by coming between the animal and her three cubs, said Lance Cherry, a spokesman for the state Game and Fish Department.
"It was absolutely a chance encounter," Cherry said.
The woman, who has not been publicly identified, was flown by helicopter to an Albuquerque hospital, where she was treated for injuries not considered life-threatening and she has since been discharged, Cherry said.
Cherry said Game and Fish officials were able to track down and euthanize the mother bear because it was wearing a satellite tracking device as part of a larger bear study. The three cubs were still at large.
If the cubs are trapped, they will be taken to a local wildlife rehabilitation center, Cherry said, adding, "We want to give them the best chance for survival possible."
Cherry said that New Mexico state law requires that game officials kill any wildlife that bites a human because the animal has to be destroyed in order to be tested for rabies.
Brittney Van Der Werff, a spokeswoman for the Valles Caldera, said fewer than 100 runners were competing in the Saturday event, and some of the runners came to the aid of the woman who was attacked.
The Caldera, popular with game hunters and outdoor enthusiasts, was named a national preserve in 2014.
Cherry said that while the circumstances in this attack were unique, there were four bear attacks on humans in the state last year.
(Editing by Steve Gorman and Sandra Maler)