A 39-year-old Colorado woman has died in an apparent black bear attack while out walking her dogs.
The woman’s boyfriend found her body on Friday night near the town of Durango, about 350 miles southwest of Denver, Colorado Parks and Wildlife said in a statement.
The man told police he arrived home around 8:30pm and found the couple’s two dogs outside, but his girlfriend was missing.
He then searched a trail on private land where she frequently walked the dogs and notified authorities after discovering her body.
Using tracking dogs, wildlife officers located a 10-year-old sow and two yearlings nearby, and euthanized the three bears ‘out of an abundance of caution,’ officials said.
The bear carcasses were transported to the state’s wildlife laboratory for necropsies, and DNA samples will be analyzed at a forensic laboratory in Wyoming.
An autopsy of the victim is pending, but authorities found bear fur, scat and ‘signs of consumption on the body,’ wildlife officials said.
The woman’s death is just the fourth fatal mauling in the state since record-keeping began in 1960.
Officials say that while bear attacks are rare, the incident should serve as a reminder to the public that wild animals can be dangerous.
‘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.’
Colorado is home to an estimated 19,000 black bears, Parks and Wildlife spokesman Jason Clay said.
The agency has documented three other fatal black bear attacks on humans since it began tracking them 61 years ago, Clay said.
Black bears, a name that describes the species rather than their coloring, are the only bears in Colorado.
Clay said black bears are active in the spring, and there have been several sightings of the bears near Durango.