Berner’s body was found Monday night about a mile outside Chignik Lake.
Read more: Local, Anchorage, Alaska, Wolves, Wolf, Candice Berner
ANCHORAGE, AK (AP) — Wolves likely killed a teacher jogging alone along a rural Alaska village road, public safety officials said Thursday.
The Alaska State Medical Examiner listed “multiple injuries due to animal mauling” as the cause of death for Candice Berner, 32, a special education teacher from Pennsylvania who began working in Alaska in August. Her body was found off the road a mile outside the village of Chignik Bay on the Alaska Peninsula, which is about 474 miles southwest of Anchorage. She was originally from Slippery Rock, PA.
The autopsy could not say which animals, said Col. Audie Holloway, head of the Alaska State Troopers, but wolves are the chief suspect.
“There’s no other carnivores in that area that are out and active,” said Col. Holloway.
Wolves, bears, foxes and other wildlife have disturbed bodies in the Alaska wilderness, but Holloway said the autopsy ruled out other causes that may have killed Berner. Additional tests could tie the death to wolves, Holloway said.
“If we’re able to actually prove which animal, it will be through some kind of DNA analysis or through some expert that can maybe testify or explain how they know that it’s a wolf,” he said.
Troopers have plenty of circumstantial evidence leading them to point the finger at wolves.
“There were wolf tracks all around the body and drag marks associated with those wolf tracks,” Holloway said.
Tracks indicated more than one wolf was involved.
“From the number of prints at the scene, we’re thinking there probably were, possibly two, three, maybe four,” Holloway said.
“Villagers in the community of 105 residents already were on alert because of wolves running boldly near the community,” said Johnny Lind, President of the Village Council.
Since Tuesday, people were not traveling alone; school children were accompanied to school and armed patrols on snowmobiles were looking for wolves.
“Everybody’s kind of staying close to the village,” he said.
Berner was based in Perryville and employed by the Lake and Peninsula School District, which oversees schools in 14 villages covering an area the size of West Virginia in southwest Alaska. Luthi said Berner, during her short time in Alaska, tried to take in as many experiences as she could.
“She wasn’t going to miss anything about living in that area,” said Luthi.
Under fivefeet tall, Berner had boxed and lately had been training for long-distance running.
“She was a gymnast by early training and was in very good physical condition,” Luthi said.
Attacks by wolves on humans are rare. If Berner’s death is confirmed to be by wolves, it would be the first in Alaska.
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