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Wildlife officials say bears that killed woman had to be euthanized, others on social media disagree

CPW says if the bears aren't put down, the chances of another human encounter go up
CPW Durango Bears.jpg
Posted at 5:58 PM, May 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-04 17:01:01-04

DURANGO, Colo. — A rare tragedy in Colorado has some questioning the methods of Colorado Parks and Wildlife when it comes to euthanizing wild animals.

"It’s not something we can allow to happen again. So those animals are put down," said Colorado Parks and Wildlife Public Information Officer Jason Clay.

An adult bear and two cubs were put down following the death of a 39-year-old woman in Durango Friday. A necropsy found human remains inside the mother bear and one of her yearlings. It's the fourth fatal bear attack in Colorado since 1960.

Clay says his agency has been getting a lot of comments on their social media, questioning the decision to euthanize the three bears.

On the CPW Facebook page Julie asks "How are they still a threat in their own home?"

Clay explains after the tragedy Friday, if those bears aren't put down, the chances of another human encounter go up.

"There’s particular learned behavior and how they can get food. Yearlings and cubs learn how to find food from their mother, and so this wasn’t a case where we could not allow that to continue," said Clay.

The bears were found hours after the woman’s death. All three were put down.

"All signs that we had pointed to this being the bear attack," explains Clay. "In addition to that, greater search of the area did not reveal any other predators. This was the evidence we had."

Back in August of 2019, Jon Johnson and his partner George Field had to fight off a mother bear inside their home.

"It’s not one of the situations that I totally relive," said Johnson. "I know that George still gets somewhat emotional when she has to recount the story,"

The bear that attacked the couple was euthanized. Johnson calls the bear's death a tough situation but one that must be done.

"When you get a powerful and wild animal that is coming in and learned to open doors in this nature, suppose that would have been a three-year-old or a five-year-old boy or a girl that was standing by the door," said Johnson.

One of the cubs was found and relocated in Johnson's situation. On CPW's Facebook page, some wanted the same thing for the bears in Durango. It's something Clay says simply wasn't possible.

"Colorado law does not allow us to bring wild animals into captivity," siad Clay of bringing the bears to a sanctuary.

"Relocation efforts are not fool proof," said Clay. "Bears often times return many many miles to where they were relocated from, because they go back to where they know they can get food."

Clay says CPW is constantly looking at ways to improve how situations are handled.

"As far as our policy of euthanizing animals after an attack, I don’t think that’s something we could change," said Clay.

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