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Colorado Parks and Wildlife find human remains in euthanized bears

Published: May. 3, 2021 at 8:44 AM MDT
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KJCT) -A Colorado Parks and Wildlife pathologist found human remains inside the stomachs of a sow and her yearling bear Saturday night.

Wildlife officers suspect the bears of killing and eating a 39-year-old woman Friday. The bears were discovered near the woman’s mauled body found off U.S. Highway 550 in Trimble, north of Durango.

Wildlife officers suspected a bear attack based on the trauma and obvious signs of consumption on the body and an abundance of bear scat and hair at the scene.

“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.

“There are inherent risks anyone takes when venturing outdoors. That could be from wildlife, the landscape, weather events or other circumstances one cannot plan for.”

The La Plata County coroner’s office is expected to determine the official cause of death and identify the remains in an autopsy on the deceased woman tomorrow.

The La Plata County Sheriff’s office alerted Colorado Parks and Wildlife of the woman’s death on Friday evening. Wildlife officers worked throughout the night and morning to locate the bears and document all evidence at the scene. The bears were euthanized in accordance with Colorado Parks and Wildlife directives.

“Whenever an animal is euthanized, we receive many questions about why that action was necessary,” said CPW Director Dan Prenzlow. “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.”

Chick said it was very likely the bears would attack humans again.

“Bears will return to a food source over and over. 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.”

The potential for danger is why Colorado Parks and Wildlife urges the public to be “Bear Aware.” These principles stress securing all trash and removing attractants from yards like bird feeders and pet food. It also advises to remove food from vehicles, keeping garage doors closed and securing chicken coops and livestock.

Colorado has an estimated 17,000-20,000 black bears and this number is growing in many areas across the state. Over the last two years, Colorado Parks and Wildlife received 10,312 reports of bear sightings and conflicts statewide. Of those, 3,389 involved garbage, a major attractant and source of bear conflicts.

“Residents and visitors of bear habitat in Colorado need to be educated and informed to use the very best techniques and behaviors to minimize any bear access to human food sources,” Chick said. “Food-conditioned bears, or habituated bears, looking for an easy handout such as your backyard bird feeder, can develop aggressive and dangerous behavior. For these bears, humans become an inconvenience when we are in the way of the food the bear is seeking. They are no longer fearful, and this is behavior we cannot allow. "

To learn more about how to avoid conflicts with wildlife, visit https://cpw.state.co.us/bears.

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