FORT COLLINS, Colorado (CBS4) – A Colorado Parks and Wildlife pathologist found human remains in the stomachs of a sow and her one year old bear. Wildlife officers suspect the bears killed and ate a 39-year-old woman. The attack occurred north of Durango on Friday.

The pathologist found the human remains in the black bear’s digestive system on Saturday night while performing necropsies of three bears at a CPW health laboratory in Fort Collins. CPW said an autopsy is a scientific dissection and examination of an animal, similar to an autopsy of a human.

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(Credit: CPW)

No human remains were found in the stomach of the second yearling who was euthanized with the other two. The La Plata County coroner is expected to determine the official cause of death and identify the remains during an autopsy Tuesday.

The three bears were found near the woman’s body after a search by CPW rangers.

The woman’s body was found on US Highway 550 in Trimble, north of Durango. Wildlife officers suspected a bear attack due to the trauma and the obvious signs of ingestion, as well as an abundance of bear droppings and hair at the scene.

“Our thoughts and prayers go to the friend, family and friends of the woman we lost in this tragic event,” said Cory Chick, manager of CPW Southwest Region, in a statement. “We cannot determine exactly how or why this attack took place, but it is important that the public not blame this woman for the unfortunate and tragic event.

“There are risks everyone takes when venturing out into the open. This can come from wildlife, the landscape, weather events, or other circumstances that cannot be planned. “

The pathologist found nothing unusual in the bears. All three appeared to be healthy. The adult she-bear weighed 204 pounds. The yearlings weighed 58 and 66 pounds, respectively.

All three bears were in good condition with adequate reserves of fat suitable for the season (black bears typically lose between 20% and 27% of their body fat in hibernation).

(Credit: CPW)

Initial findings on the bears showed no signs of illness or other abnormalities, but further histopathology and rabies exams will take up to two weeks.

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The La Plata County Sheriff’s Office alerted CPW on Friday night of the woman’s death as CPW is responsible for the conservation and management of wildlife in Colorado. The bears were euthanized according to established CPW guidelines.

“Whenever an animal is euthanized, we get many questions about why this measure was necessary,” said CPW director Dan Prenzlow. “Our responsibility to the state’s natural resources is manifold, but we have no more important duty than to manage these resources so that Coloradans and our visitors are safe. Euthanasia is never an act our officials take lightly, but we have an obligation to prevent additional preventable harm. “

Chick said it was very likely that the bears would attack humans again.

“Once a bear injures or consumes people, we don’t risk it happening to anyone else,” Chick said. “We are humanly killing this bear because of the severity of the incident.

“Bears will always return to a source of food. A bear that loses its fear of humans is a dangerous animal. And this sow taught her yearlings that humans are a source of food, not something to fear and avoid. “

In the past two years, CPW received 10,312 reports of bear sightings and conflicts nationwide. Of these, 3,389 concerned trash, a major attraction and a source of bear conflict.

Another 879 bear conflict reports involved bears violently breaking into houses, apartments or garages. This is a consequence of a bear’s behavior that escalates dangerously due to the inability or unwillingness of humans to secure food attractants, and ultimately leads to the unnecessary death of bears.

“Residents and visitors to the Colorado bear habitat need training and education to use the best techniques and behaviors to minimize bears’ access to human food sources,” Chick said. “Food-conditioned bears, or familiar bears looking for a simple flyer like your backyard bird feeder, can develop aggressive and dangerous behavior. For these bears, humans become an inconvenience when we stand in the way of the food the bear seeks. They are no longer afraid and we cannot allow this behavior. ”

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