TRIMBLE, Colo. — Human remains were found in the stomachs of two of the three bears euthanized after a Colorado woman was found dead from an apparent attack, wildlife officials said.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife said Sunday necropsies were completed on the three bears that were found near the woman’s body. The mother and one of the cubs had human remains in their stomachs. No remains were found in the stomach of the second cub.
The three bears were found near the woman’s mauled remains.
“Whenever an animal is euthanized, we receive many questions about why that action was necessary,” said Dan Prenzlow, agency director. “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.”
The woman, who has not been identified, went walking with her two dogs Friday morning. When her boyfriend returned home from work, he found the dogs outside but his girlfriend was not there. He searched and found her body about an hour later and called 911.
Bears suspected of attacking humans are euthanized to prevent further possible attacks.
“Once a bear injures or consumes humans, we will not risk the chance that this could happen to someone else,” said Cory Chick, the Southwest Region manager for the wildlife agency. “We humanely euthanize that bear because of the severity of the incident. 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.”
A pathologist said the bears did not appear to be sick or show any abnormalities. The mother weighed 204 pounds and the cubs weighed 58 and 66 pounds and showed appropriate body condition for the season. However, further testing will take about two weeks to complete.
The La Plata County coroner is expected to conduct an autopsy on the victim Tuesday.
There are an estimated 20,000 bears in Colorado, with a strong and growing population. The wildlife agency has received 10,312 reports of bear sightings across the state. Many of the calls, 3,389, involved garbage. Another 879 calls were about bears forcefully trying to enter homes or garages.
“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.”
While bear sightings are plentiful, there are few deadly attacks. Previously, there have only been three fatal bear attacks in the state. They were in 1971, 1993 and 2009.