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Woman killed in southwestern Colorado bear attack identified

The La Plata County Sheriff's Office said 39-year-old Laney Malavolta was killed by a bear Friday near the town of Trimble.

DURANGO, Colo. — On Sunday night Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) reported finding human remains inside the stomachs of a black bear and her cub suspected of killing a 39-year old woman Friday near Durango.

The woman, who went walking with her dogs on Friday was found dead several hours later, the victim of an apparent bear attack, according to CPW.

The La Plata County coroner's office conducted an autopsy and identified the woman on Tuesday as Laney Malavolta, 39. 

Following the autopsy, the La Plata County Sheriff's Office officially determined that Malavolta died as the result of the bear attack. The coroner said her official cause of death was a "penetrating wound to the neck."

CPW officers, along with a dog team from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, located a female black bear with two yearlings near where Malavolta's body was found. The bears were euthanized and taken to the Wildlife Health Lab in Fort Collins for a necropsy, CPW said.

No human remains were found in the stomach of a second yearling euthanized with the other two.   

RELATED: Here's why wildlife officials euthanized 3 bears that apparently killed Durango woman

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the boyfriend, family and friends of the woman we lost in this tragic event,” said Cory Chick, CPW Southwest Region manager. “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."

All three bears were in good body condition with adequate fat stores appropriate for the season (black bears typically lose between 20-27 percent of their body fat during hibernation), said CPW.

The bears were euthanized in accordance with established CPW directives. Human health and safety is the agency’s highest priority, CPW said.  

This was the first fatal bear attack in Colorado since August 2009, according to CPW.

Malavolta, a Durango resident, was believed to have gone walking with her dogs on Friday, according to information provided to the La Plata County Sheriff's Office by her boyfriend.

Credit: Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers and La Plata County Sheriff's Office deputies investigate the scene Saturday of an apparent bear attack near Trimble, Colorado.

The boyfriend said he found the two dogs outside their home at about 8:30 p.m., but Malavolta was missing. He searched for her and found her body about 9:30 p.m. off U.S. 550 near Trimble, which is north of Durango.

CPW officers responded and observed signs of consumption on the body and bear scat and hair at the scene, CPW said.

“Bear attacks are extremely rare,” said  Chick. “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.”

Chick asked people to avoid the area as the investigation continued.

Previous fatal bear attacks in Colorado include:

  • Aug. 7, 2009: A bear or bears killed and partially ate a 74-year-old woman at her home in Ouray. Two male bears were shot and killed, one of which had human remains in its digestive system. CPW determined the victim illegally fed bears through a fence in her yard.
  • Aug. 10, 1993: A male bear broke into a camper 20 miles north of Cotopaxi and killed a 24-year-old Buena Vista man. In trying to stop the attack, the victim shot the bear, which was later located and destroyed.
  • July 25, 1971: An older bear attacked a honeymooning couple who were camping in a tent near Grand Lake. The 31-year-old man was pulled from the campsite and killed. The woman was injured. The bear was later found and destroyed.

WATCH: It looks like bears killed a woman in Durango, but fatal bear attacks are rare in Colorado. It's the moose you got to look out for.

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