A 39-year-old woman was found dead Friday night off U.S. Highway 550 near Trimble, north of Durango, after what Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) officials believe was a black bear attack. No reason was given for the attack, but the woman was walking in known bear habitat. This was only the third attack that has resulted in death in Colorado and most bear encounters resolve without incident. Here are a few tips for managing a bear encounter.
An autopsy on the woman will be performed by the La Plata County coroner early next week. The coroner’s office will identify the remains and determine the official cause of death.
The woman, a Durango resident, was believed to have gone walking with her two dogs earlier Friday, according to information provided to the La Plata County Sheriff’s office by her boyfriend. The victim had last communicated with her boyfriend late in the morning.
The boyfriend, whose name has not been released, told the sheriff’s office he returned home around 8:30 p.m. and discovered the two dogs outside of their home, but the woman was missing. He started searching for her and discovered her body around 9:30 p.m. He then called 911 to report the incident.
CPW wildlife officers responded and observed signs of consumption on the body and an abundance of bear scat and hair at the scene.
“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.”
Learn more about the bear attack
How to Avoid a Bear Attack
- Identify yourself by talking calmly
- Stay calm and remember that most bears do not want to attack you
- Pick up small children immediately.
- Hike and travel in groups. Groups of people are usually noisier and smellier than a single person.
- Make yourselves look as large as possible (for example, move to higher ground).
- Do NOT allow the bear access to your food.
- Do NOT drop your pack as it can provide protection for your back and prevent a bear from accessing your food.
- If the bear is stationary, move away slowly and sideways; Do NOT run
- Leave the area or take a detour
- Be especially cautious if you see a female with cubs; never place yourself between a mother and her cub