26-Year-Old Italian Runner Dies In Tragic Bear Encounter While Running

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Running is generally considered to be a fairly safe activity.

However, unfortunately, tragic accidents do happen.

On Wednesday, April 5, 2023, one of these horrific running tragedies occurred. 

The running community lost 26-year-old runner Andrea Papi of Caldes, Italy.

Papi was out running his usual route in the Val di Sole valley in the northern region of Trentino-Alto Adige.

Local residents found his body at Monte Peller, a peak in Trentino.

Once medical examiners arrived on site, they concluded that the wounds on Papi’s body are likely evidence that he was killed by “a large wild animal.”

The authorities believe that the attack was likely to have been a bear.

Bear attacks are not unheard of in the area where Papi was running.

For example, reports note that a bear tagged MJ5 attacked another Caldes resident who was hiking in the Rabbi Valley last month. 

There have also been reports of bears attacking farm animals and livestock in the area in the past couple of months.

Although bear attacks do happen, they are quite rare.

According to a study published in Scientific Reports, there were 664 incidents of brown bears attacking humans between 2000 and 2015 worldwide. This works out to about 44 bear attacks per year.

The study notes that half of the times the attacks occurred happened when people were engaged in leisure activities (such as hiking or running), and the primary scenario for the attacks was when the human encountered a female bear with her cubs.

Brown bear in water may attack runners and hikers.

Although it’s not always possible to prevent dangerous wildlife encounters while running, there are a few precautions trail runners can take to enhance their safety on the run.

For one, data indicates that bear attacks are most common in wilderness areas that are remote and see little foot traffic. Therefore, it can be best to stay on well-traveled running and hiking trails.

Bear spray or a loud bear whistle can be helpful with black bears but not brown bears. 

With brown bears, experts say you should lie down and play dead, whereas when you encounter black bears, you want to make as much noise and commotion as possible to scare away the bear.

At Marathon Handbook, we extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Andrea Papi. Our thoughts are with you and we hope that the running community can keep the Papi’s spirit and love for the sport alive by remembering that every run is a true gift.

For more information about solo hiking safety, check out our article here. You can also read about self-defense for runners here.

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Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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