Human remains were found in two of the three euthanized bears that are suspected of killing and eating a 39-year-old woman who was walking her dogs north of Durango on Friday night, Colorado Parks and Wildlife said.
The woman took her dogs on a walk in Trimble, about 10 miles north of Durango.
When her boyfriend returned home, he found the two dogs but not the woman. He searched for about an hour before finding her body.
When Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers responded, they found evidence of consumption on the body and an abundance of bear scat and hair.
Wildlife crews and a trained tracking dogs found the female black bear and two cubs and euthanized them.
They were taken to a state wildlife health lab in Fort Collins for necropsies.
A wildlife pathologist found human remains in the digestive systems of the sow and one of her yearlings. No human remains were found in the second yearling.
An autopsy on the woman is planned for Tuesday by the La Plata County Coroner’s Office.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the boyfriend, family and friends of the woman we lost in this tragic event,” the wildlife agency's Southwest Region manager Cory Chick said. “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.”
Officials said the wildlife pathologist found nothing abnormal in the bears, who all appeared to be healthy.
The adult female bear weighed 204 pounds, while the yearlings were 58 and 66 pounds.
“Whenever an animal is euthanized, we receive many questions about why that action was necessary,” agency Director Dan Prenzlow said. “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.”
If the bears were not euthanized, they likely would attack humans again, Chick said.
“Once a bear injures or consumes humans, we will not risk the chance that this could happen to someone else,” he said. “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.”
Bear attacks are rare and this is only the fourth known fatal attack in Colorado, the agency said.
The last fatal bear attack was in August 2009 when a 74-year-old woman was killed and partially eaten by a bear or bears at her home near Ouray.