Wolf Song of Alaska News

Autopsy Results for Teacher May be Available Thursday

Christine Kim and Rebecca Palsha / KTUU-TV / March 10, 2010

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A friend of Berner's said the students and parents all loved her. (Courtesy Candice Berner's blog)

A friend of Berner's said the students and parents all loved her. (Courtesy Candice Berner's blog)

Candice Berner, 32, was an itinerant special education teacher. (Courtesy Candice Berner's blog)

Candice Berner, 32, was an itinerant special education teacher. (Courtesy Candice Berner's blog)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- The medical examiner office says it may have more answers in the death of a Bush school teacher by Thursday.

Candice Berner's body was found Monday near a gravel road in Chignik Lake. Villagers say they believe a wolf attacked her.
Her body was flown into Anchorage Wednesday and officials started examining her remains that afternoon.
There could be more information as early as Thursday about how she died.

Berner was a young woman with a passion for the outdoors, running and the children who lived in villages along the Alaska Peninsula.

As several communities wait to confirm what exactly caused her death, they're sure of one thing: Berner spent her life touching many little lives.

"She just had a presence about her and everyone really liked her and all the adults in the village as well because they knew the kids really liked her," said Andrew Scrivo, a friend of Berner's.
Life as an Alaskan Bush teacher started in August for Candice Berner.

Her adventures, documented on her blog, showcased her love for Rural Alaska.

"Candice fits so well in our communities. She's embraced the lifestyle and she loved to travel, she loved the interaction with our communities and the learning piece that comes along with being new," said Lake and Peninsula Borough School District Chief Operating Officer, Rick Luthi.

Berner was a special education teacher from Pennsylvania.
She followed in her father's footsteps: He was a professor and taught her first special education class.

"I felt like it was work worth doing, and I've always felt that way. I thought Candice would be able to handle it well, because she has a tremendous tolerance for those who are different," her father, Bob Berner, said.

Bob Berner says his daughter was fearless.

Through pictures of her first moose sighting and her first time flying on a bush plane, you can see her love for the Last Frontier.
"Our children are a gift, and you don't know how long you're going to be able to keep that gift, so 32 years, that's a lot of really positive memories. So we'll never forget Candice, and she'll always be with us at least in spirit," Bob Berner said.

Candice was also a member of the National Education Association. Her death shocked teachers across the state.
"Anytime we lose a member of our family it's pretty tough for everybody," said Barb Angaiak with NEA Alaska.

While the villagers believe that Berner was attacked by wolves, the actual cause of death won't be known until the autopsy is completed. A State Troopers spokesperson didn't comment on the cause of death, but said that the body did show signs of predation.

Luthi said there have been wolves and wolf noises in the community and the area around the village, but that wolf attacks on humans are pretty uncommon.

Others agreed that attacks are rare.

"Generally when we see aggression by wolves toward people it's associated with wolves that have become food conditioned and have lost their fear of people," said Mark McNay, a retired Fish and Game biologist.

"Sometimes they may have mistaken a person for a prey item or if the person is running or jogging there have been cases where wolves have rushed out and bitten the legs of people," McNay said.

Berner's father says he's comforted to know that she was doing what she loved: Spending her life making a difference. 
Bob Berner says the family is planning for a funeral in Pennsylvania.

Students and local residents have planned a memorial service for her Thursday at the school in Perryville, where she was based.
Contact Christine Kim at ckim@ktuu.com and Rebecca Palsha at rpalsha@ktuu.com


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