Her boyfriend called 911 after the dogs returned home without her.

A 39-year-old woman has been killed in Colorado in an apparent bear attack.

The victim was found dead on Friday night near Highway 550 near Trimble, north of Durango, Colorado Parks and Wildlife confirmed.

Her boyfriend told authorities she had taken their two dogs for a walk early on Friday; when he returned home at 8:30 PM that night, he discovered the dogs had come back without her.

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Unable to call her, he began searching. He found her mauled body by the side of the road an hour later.

CPW officers were summoned, and observed “signs of consumption on the body”, as well as an abundance of bear droppings and hair at the scene.

Investigators scrambled a dog team from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services to search the area, and began tracking the predator.

They tracked down an adult female black bear with two cubs, and euthanized all three.

The bodies were sent to CPW’s Wildlife Health Lab in Fort Collins for a necropsy; a pathologist found human remains in the stomach of the mother bear, as well as one of the yearlings.

There was nothing abnormal about any of the three: they were in good condition, with no signs of disease. The mother weighed 204lbs and the cubs weighed 58 and 66lbs, meaning there were not starved and had adequate fat stores for this time of season.

Analysis of the mother’s teeth estimated her age to be around ten, while the cubs were born this last winter.

“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.”

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CPW officers had received a couple of reports of bear encounters this spring, but no attacks: one resident reported a bear tearing down his bird feeder on April 19, while another spotted one getting into his trash on March 23.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the boyfriend, family and friends of the woman we lost in this tragic event,” Officer Chick added. “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.”

CPW Director Dan Prenzlow also defended the decision to kill all three bears.

“Whenever an animal is euthanized, we receive many questions about why that action was necessary,” he 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.”

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Officer Chick said it was “very likely” the bears would have attacked humans again.

“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.”

Colorado has a population of between 17,000-20,000 black bears; each with the potential to kill a human. Officer Chick begged state residents to be “bear aware”, which includes removing attractants from yards such as bird feeders and pet food; removing food from vehicles; keeping garage doors closed; and securing chicken coops and livestock.

While fatal bear attacks in Colorado are rare, they have happened.

In July of 1971, a honeymooning couple were attacked while camping near Grand Lake; the woman was injured but her 31-year-old husband was dragged from their tent and killed.

In August of 1993, a bear broke into a camper parked near Cotopaxi, presumably in search of food. The 24-year-old man inside even managed to shoot the bear, but only grazed its rib cage, likely increasing the intensity of the attack. He was killed and partially eaten.

In August 2009, a 74-year-old woman was killed and eaten by a bear at her home in Ouray. An investigation later revealed she had been illegally feeding bears through her fence.

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