(TRIMBLE, Colo.) — A Colorado woman out walking her dogs died of a suspected bear attack, officials said.
The 39-year-old woman was found Friday night by her boyfriend, who went searching for her when he discovered the two dogs alone outside their home in Durango, in southwestern Colorado, Colorado Parks and Wildlife said in a statement Saturday.
He found her body around 9:30 p.m. local time off U.S. Highway 550 near Trimble, north of Durango, and called 911, officials said. The woman and her boyfriend haven’t been publicly identified.
Responding wildlife officers “observed signs of consumption on the body and an abundance of bear scat and hair at the scene,” Colorado Parks and Wildlife said in a statement.
A dog team from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services also searched the area and found a female black bear with two young bears nearby. The bears were euthanized “out of an abundance of caution,” the agency said.
Wildlife officials believe the woman died of a bear attack, though the local coroner’s office will determine the official cause of death. An autopsy will be performed by the La Plata County coroner early next week, officials said.
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Wildlife Health Lab in Fort Collins will also perform a necropsy on the three bears, officials said. DNA evidence from the bears and the scene will be sent for testing to the Wyoming Game and Fish Wildlife Forensic & Fish Health Laboratory.
Wildlife officers are still investigating the scene to corroborate a wildlife attack.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials urged the public to avoid the area as the investigation continues and asked people to report any encounter with an aggressive bear to the agency.
“Bear attacks are extremely rare,” Colorado Parks and Wildlife Southwest Region manager Cory Chick said in a statement. “This is a tragic event and a sad reminder that bears are wild and potentially dangerous.”
So far this spring, Colorado Parks and Wildlife said it has received several reports of bear sightings and activity in the Durango area, including a bear tearing down a bird feeder and one getting into garbage.
There have been three confirmed fatal bear attacks in Colorado since 1971, according to the wildlife agency. The most recent occurred in 2009, when a 74-year-old woman was killed and partially eaten by a bear or bears at her home near Ouray.
Most bears are active in Colorado from mid-March through early November. Colorado Parks and Wildlife offers tips on what to do if you see one here.
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