A 39-year-old woman has been killed in an apparent bear attack, while she was walking her dogs.
The woman's boyfriend returned to their home in Colorado on Friday to find the two dogs sitting outside, but his partner was nowhere to be found.
The boyfriend, who has not been identified, told the sheriff's office he had returned home at around 8.30pm and he had last spoken with his girlfriend earlier that morning.
The man began searching for his partner, and at around 9.30pm he discovered her body near Trimble, north of Durango, off a highway and called authorities.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) officials believe the woman was attacked and killed by a bear.
"CPW wildlife officers responded and observed signs of consumption on the body and an abundance of bear scat and hair at the scene," a CPW press release said.
The La Plata County coroner will examine the woman's remains to determine the cause of death.
“Bear attacks are extremely rare,” Cory Chick, CPW Southwest Region manager said.
“This is a tragic event and a sad reminder that bears are wild and potentially dangerous."
Bear, two cubs found and killed
After the woman's body was discovered, a dog team from the US Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services was called in and La Plata County Sheriff’s deputies assisted in the investigation.
The dogs quickly found a sow, a female black bear, and two cubs nearby. All three of the bears were euthanised "out of an abundance of caution" and taken to CPW’s Wildlife Health Lab for a necropsy.
DNA evidence will be sent off for further testing at the Wyoming Game and Fish Wildlife Forensic & Fish Health Laboratory.
Wildlife officers worked through to Saturday morning gathering evidence to corroborate the belief the woman was a victim of a wildlife attack.
On CPW's Facebook page, people expressed sympathy for both the woman and the bears.
"This is a tragedy in every aspect," one person remarked.
"Sad for the woman, but devastated for the bears!"
Jason Clay the Lead Public Information Officer for CPW told The Durango Herald it was policy to euthanise bears if they attack a human.
"Euthanising wildlife is never an action our officers take lightly, but we have an obligation to prevent additional, avoidable harm," CPW said on Facebook following the incident.
Based on the the sow's teeth it is believed she was over 10 years old, and Mr Chick asked the public to avoid the area.
Bear tears down bird feeder
CPW said there have been a few reports of bears being active in the spring, including sightings on April 19 and March 23.
"On April 19, a resident along the Animas River and La Plata County Road 250 captured a single bear on his game camera and reported that the bear tore down his bird feeder," the CPW press release said.
"On March 23, CPW received a report of a bear getting into trash east of Durango off Florida Road."
The last fatal bear attack in Colorado, before the one on Friday, was in August 2009.
A 74-year-old woman was killed and partially eaten near her home in Ouray County, some 165km away from La Plata County.
When deputies from the sheriff's department were investigating the scene, a five-year-old male black bear weighing around 110kg approached them displaying "aggressive behaviour" and was shot and killed.
Autopsy results were inconclusive in determining whether that bear was involved in the woman's death.
The next morning, another 178kg bear was shot and killed by federal wildlife officers after it had approached the home, also exhibiting aggressive behaviour — human remains and remnants of clothing were found in its digestive system.
A CPW investigation found the 74-year-old female victim illegally fed bears through the fence in her yard.
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