39-Year-Old Woman Dies in Suspected Bear Attack Near Durango

May 1, 2021

The Durango resident was found dead Friday night near Highway 550 and Trimble. It's the first fatal bear attack in Colorado since 2009.

This story was originally published in the Colorado Sun.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife says the woman was found near U.S. 550 north of Durango. Her boyfriend told authorities that she had gone for a walk with her dogs on Friday morning but when he returned home at 8:30 p.m. the dogs were there but the woman was not.

The man started searching for his girlfriend and found her body at about 9:30 p.m.

"CPW wildlife officers responded and observed signs of consumption on the body and an abundance of bear scat and hair at the scene," the agency said in a news release.

A female black bear and her two yearlings were found nearby. The bears were euthanized and are being taken to CPW's lab in Fort Collins for a necropsy. DNA evidence collected from the bears will be sent to Laramie for testing at the Wyoming Game and Fish Wildlife Forensic & Fish Health Laboratory.

The woman's name was not released.

"Bear attacks are extremely rare," Cory Chick, CPW's southwest region manager, said in a written statement. "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."

The last fatal bear attack in Colorado happened in 2009 when a 74-year-old woman was killed and partially eaten by a bear or bears at her home near Ouray. Wildlife officials determined the woman had been illegally feeding bears through a fence in her yard.

In 1993, a Buena Vista man was attacked by a bear and killed in his camper.

In 1971, a tent-camping honeymooning couple was attacked by a bear in their tent. The bear killed the man and injured the woman.

Black bears live across Colorado and several people have been attacked in recent years, though not killed. Grizzly bears do not live in Colorado.

Wildlife officials and law enforcement have been trying to encourage the public to be mindful of bears and take steps to prevent them from interacting with humans. That includes securing trash, locking vehicles and hazing bears that approach populated areas.