DURANGO, Colo. (CBS4) - A 39-year-old Durango woman died after apparently being attacked by a black bear. Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers say the attack happened Friday night.
The woman's boyfriend found her body after she disappeared about an hour after he arrived at their home. Authorities say the victim apparently went on a walk with her two dogs earlier Friday, according to information provided to the La Plata County Sheriff's office by her boyfriend.
"It's a very sad and tragic event," says Jason Clay the Lead Public Information Officer for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. "It's bear habitat and bears are known to be there and expected to be there."
The boyfriend last heard from the victim late in the morning. The two dogs appeared to be okay.
"Officers observed signs of consumption on the body and an abundance of bear scat and hair at the scene," CPW said on Saturday morning.
A dog team from the USDA found a sow and two yearlings nearby. CPW says all bears were euthanized and will be taken to a lab in Fort Collins for a necropsy. Their DNA evidence will then be sent to a lab at the Wyoming Game and Fish Wildlife Forensic & Fish Health facility.
Investigators say, based on the sow's teeth, they believe the sow is older than 10 years.
The woman will be identified by the La Plata County coroner's office next week. There was no evidence she was feeding the bears, but CPW says there have been reports of bears in the Durango area because this time of year bears are coming out of hibernation looking for food whether you are providing it or not.
On April 19, a resident along the Animas River and La Plata County Road 250 captured a single bear on his game camera and reported that the bear tore down his bird feeder. On March 23, CPW received a report of a bear getting into trash east of Durango off Florida Road.
"It's expected that bear activity is picking up and people need to be aware," said Clay.
CPW says to keep yourself safe you should lock up trash cans, avoid feeding any wildlife especially bears and take a whistle and bear spray when you go out into the wilderness. If you see a bear don't run. Talk to it, make yourself look big and make noise. Use the bear spray if necessary.
"Bear attacks are extremely rare," said Cory Chick, CPW Southwest Region manager. "This is a tragic event and a sad reminder that bears are wild and potentially dangerous. Out of an abundance of caution, the bears were removed for public safety. We ask the public to report any encounter with an aggressive bear to CPW."
CPW says there have been three other deadly bear attacks in Colorado; a 31-year-old man at a campsite near Grand Lake in 1971; a 24-year-old man in a camper north of Cotopaxi in 1993; and a 74-year-old woman at her home near Ouray in 2009.
Investigators remain at the scene near U.S 550 near Trimble. Authorities ask the public to avoid the area.
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