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Sheepherder attacked by black bear northeast of Durango, two sheep killed says CPW

Black Bear
Posted at 8:04 PM, Jul 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-12 22:08:25-04

LA PLATA COUNTY — Colorado Parks and Wildlife says the first black bear attack of 2023 was recorded this week.

On Tuesday, a sheepherder in the Weminuche Wilderness northeast of Durango, Colorado was woken by a bear that was messing with his sheep around 1 a.m. The shepherd reported firing his .30-30 caliber rifle before being attacked by the bear.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife said the man had bite wounds on his head and wounds to the left hand and arm, as well as severe lacerations to his left hip and scratches on his back.

“This is an unfortunate incident and we are thankful the victim was able to contact help to get emergency services deployed and that he was able to be extracted to receive necessary medical care,” said CPW Area Wildlife Manager Adrian Archuleta.

CPW says the man was able to crawl to his tent following the attack and phone a cousin for help. Emergency personnel was made aware of the incident and the man was rescued by air and taken to Mercy Regional Medical Center for initial treatment before being sent to Grand Junction for further surgery.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife was made aware of the attack early Tuesday morning and had wildlife officers at the scene of the attack by 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Officers quickly found evidence of the attack including the victim's rifle and two dead sheep with wounds consistent with a bear attack. The wildlife officers began to search for the bear in the nearby area unsure about the extent of its wounds, or if it had been shot by the shepherd at all.

CPW says it contacted the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to respond with a team of dogs to search for the bear. Officers and the dog team began to search for the bear's scent beginning at 5:00 p.m. Tuesday.

The dog team was able to locate a trail of blood and tracked the bear to the Florida River. CPW says the bear led officers through steep and treacherous terrain before being located and shot by an APHIS agent at 10:53 p.m.

Under Colorado Parks and Wildlife policy, any bear that attacks a human must be euthanized.

“This is a difficult part of the job,” Archuleta said. “But when it comes to injuries to humans as a result of a predator attack, human health and safety is our top priority.”

Following an inspection of the bear, CPW determined it to be an 8-year-old male weighing around 250 lbs. CPW says officers noticed wounds on the bear's chest but have not determined if this was from the gunshots fired by the shepherd.

DNA samples and sheep wool collected from the bear's stomach were sent to a lab to test for rabies. While CPW believes this is the bear that attacked the shepherd, they will not be able to confirm this until tests at the CPW Wildlife Health Lab in Fort Collins confirm this.

“Until we get results back from the lab regarding DNA testing, we can’t 100% confirm that this is the offending bear,” Archuleta said. “But based on the information we have at this point, we feel confident that it is the offending bear.”

CPW says this is the first bear attack in 2023 and the first in La Plata County since 2021. To be more bear aware, click here.

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