DENVER – Human remains were found inside the stomachs of two of the three bears that were euthanized after attacking and killing a woman Friday night north of Durango, Colorado Parks and Wildlife said Sunday.
The sow bear, which wildlife officers believe was at least 10 years old, and one of the two yearling bears that were with her after the attack had the remains in their stomachs, necropsies conducted on the bears on Saturday confirmed. The other yearling did not have human remains inside its stomach.
CPW said the La Plata County Coroner’s Office would perform the autopsy on the 39-year-old woman on Tuesday. She has not been formally identified.
The woman was attacked and killed sometime on Friday off U.S. Highway 550 near Trimble. Her boyfriend said earlier in the day she had gone to walk her two dogs. He found her body around 9:30 p.m. Friday and called 911.
CPW said previously that wildlife officers saw signs of consumption on the woman’s body and bear scat and hair at the scene. Wildlife officers and tracking dogs found the three bears nearby and euthanized them.
CPW said the necropsy found all three bears to be in good condition with appropriate fat stores for this time of the year. The sow weighed 204 pounds while the yearlings weighed 58 and 66 pounds.
Officials said initial tests did not show any other signs of disease or abnormalities but said further testing was underway.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the boyfriend, family and friends of the woman we lost in this tragic event,” said Cory Chick, CPW Southwest Region manager. “We cannot determine with exact certainty how or why this attack took place, but it is important for the public not to cast blame on this woman for the unfortunate and tragic event.”
Chick and CPW Director Dan Prenzlow said the bears were euthanized in line with CPW directives and that it was likely the bears would attack humans again because they had already done so.
“Whenever an animal is euthanized, we receive many questions about why that action was necessary,” Prenzlow said. “Our responsibilities to the natural resources of the state are many, but we have no more important duty than to manage these resources in a manner that keeps Coloradans and our visitors safe. Euthanizing wildlife is never an action our officers take lightly, but we have an obligation to prevent additional avoidable harm.”
“Bears will return to a food source over and over,” said Chick. “A bear that loses its fear of humans is a dangerous animal. And this sow was teaching its yearlings that humans were a source of food, not something to fear and avoid.”
CPW said Colorado has an estimated 17,000-20,000 black bears across the state. About one-third of the roughly 10,000 bear sightings and conflicts over the past two years have involved garbage, the agency said.
Despite those encounters, there have only been four deadly bear attacks in the state since 1960, including the one that occurred last week. Jason Clay, a spokesperson for CPW, said the attacks are "very rare" but a reminder of the dangers of certain animals living in Colorado.
“Anytime we lose a wild animal, that’s a loss to the state. Wildlife is what makes Colorado so great,” Clay said. “The review of how we do things is constant. Every situation that comes up, we’re probably learning something new. Not every situation is the exact same.”