I am not familiar with the predators in the Alps, but here in Sweden and the Nordics we have, besides the Eurasian Lynx mentioned by Robert, and which is quite small and harmless, the Wolverine and Grey Wolf, but both are mostly trying to avoid humans and there are no reported attacks or deaths to my knowledge in recent years. However, in Alaska a young teacher was killed by a flock of wolves while out running alone ac ouple of years ago. More dangerous, in particular during this time of the year when they are waking from the winter hibernation and when the mothers are particularly protective of their cubs, are the Brown Bears. During 1977 to 2012 there were 31 humans injured and 2 killed during bear attacks in Scandinavia (figures found in Veronica Sahlén’s PhD thesis “Encounters between Brown Bears and humans in Scandinavia – contributing factors, bear behavior and management perspectives” from 2013 at Department of Natural Resource Management at Norwegian University of Life Sciences. It is freely available in English in a pdf format at the Scandinavian Brown Bear Research Project webpage). I am uncertain if there were any runners among those attacked by Brown Bears, but I would not think it unlikely.
|A Scandinavian Brown Bear. This particular bear is not wild but living at Orsa Bear Park|
The inspiration to my statement that pacer’s should not be allowed in “normal” ultramarathons was when I saw that there were pacers allowed in the Swedish 100 mile race Täby Extreme Challenge (TEC 100). There are certainly no predators or other dangerous animals present at this location just outside Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, and as the race consists of 16 laps of 10 kilometers and is rather flat without any technical passages there are no safety reasons for allowing pacers. Indeed, reading the race report from the winner of TEC 100 this year it is clear how helpful pacing was in particular during the last laps. I am concerned that having pacers like this is a trend not only in the US as Robert mentions, but also in Europe.
I agree with your sentiment with respect to utilization of pacers in ultramarathons. Here in the US there are real concerns about safety in some ultramarathons (mostly the mountainous, remotes ones in the Western US) as it concerns predators. Predators were exterminated in the Alps sometime after about 1800 and have only recently (1990's) been reintroduced. Even so, there have never been nor are there now any large cats (cougars) in the Alps. The Slovenian Alps have successfully reintroduced the Eurasian Lynx but this cat is not considered a real threat to human life as is the North American Cougar (Puma concolor couguar). There were 5 confirmed human killings in the decade 2001-2010, including a cross country skier just outside Canmore AB (site of the 1988 Olympic Cross country Skiing events). There were dozens of non-death injury reports as well and probably thousands of sightings. So we take interaction with this animal very seriously. Most attacks upon humans are of solo individuals as is the preference of such a predator. Numbers really matter when dealing with such a large dangerous animal, even just two will have a much better chance of scaring the thing off than a lone individual. Read this harrowing account by Joe Grant when he was stalked for 5 miles on a solo 100 miler in Washington state a couple of years ago:
There are many ultramarathons in the US where such safety issues are either non-existent or so minimal as to not be considered a risk, yet pacers are encouraged by race directors. I find this unfortunate but seemingly cultural for US ultramarathons. Karl Meltzer is one US-based runner who eschews pacers and is quite vocal about it- he has had nary a dent in the practice. I think that pacers should be allowed when there is a documented safety concern, otherwise they should not be allowed or at least have different classes where the real winner is the one who do not use a pacer. Interestingly, USA Track and Field do not allow pacers (or music) in their ultramarathon championship events.”