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La Plata County coroner identifies woman killed by bear near Durango

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Posted at 6:40 AM, May 05, 2021

DURANGO, Colo. — The coroner in La Plata County has identified the woman killed by a bear on Friday near Durango.

On Tuesday, La Plata County Coroner Jann Smith identified the woman as 39-year-old Laney Malavolta.

The coroner said that the cause of death was "perforating injury to the neck" and the manner was ruled as accidental. An autopsy report will not be available for several weeks pending toxicology reports, Smith said.

Malavolta was attacked by a sow bear and died sometime Friday off U.S. Highway 550 near Trimble. She had been walking with her two dogs at the time. Her boyfriend went looking for her when the dogs returned home without her. He found her body around 9:30 p.m. and called 911, CPW previously said.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife said wildlife officers saw signs of consumption on the woman’s body and bear scat and hair at the scene. Wildlife officers and tracking dogs found the sow and her two yearlings nearby and officers euthanized them.

“Bears will return to a food source over and over,” said Cory Chick, CPW Southwest Region manager. “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.”

The sow and one of the yearlings had human remains in their stomachs. CPW said the necropsy found all three bears to be in good condition.

Since 1960, only four bear attacks have been recorded in Colorado, including this one.

These are the other three:

  • July 25, 1971: A honeymooning couple was attacked while tent camping near Grand Lake in Grand County. A large older bear entered the tent, injured the woman and pulled the 31-year-old man away from the campsite. The man was killed. The bear was later found and euthanized. Further examination of the black bear found that it had worn, abscessed teeth and a plastic bucket in its stomach.
  • Aug. 10, 1993: A 24-year-old Buena Vista man was attacked and killed after a male bear broke into a camper 20 miles north of Cotopaxi in Fremont County, presumably in a search for food. The camper tried to stop the attack by shooting at the bear, but it only injured the animal. The bear was injured by a bullet that grazed its rib cage, possibly increasing the intensity of the attack. A 250-pound, very aggressive male black bear with a fresh bullet wound to the rib cage was trapped and destroyed six days later. A necropsy on the bear revealed human remains in its digestive system.
  • Aug. 7, 2009: A 74-year-old woman was killed and partially eaten by a bear or bears at her home near Ouray in Ouray County. As sheriff's deputies were investigating the scene, they were approached by a 250-pound, 5-year-old male black bear that exhibited aggressive behavior. Deputies shot and killed the bear after it approached them and showed no fear of people. Results of the necropsy on that bear were inconclusive as to whether it was involved in the original incident. Early the next morning, federal wildlife officers killed a 394-pound, mature male black bear that approached the home and exhibited aggressive behavior. A necropsy on the large older boar revealed human remains and remnants of clothing in its digestive system. A CPW investigation determined the victim illegally fed bears through a fence in her yard.