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Routt County man seriously injured by bear he found in garage

Law enforcement said a man was seriously injured in an attack that happened in the Whitewoods subdivision late Sunday night.

ROUTT COUNTY, Colo. — A sow bear was euthanized early Monday morning after authorities said it attacked a man in Routt County late Sunday night.

Routt County Communications sent alerts to residents in the Whitewoods subdivision to shelter in place after the bear attack was reported. The subdivision is about 12 driving miles southwest of Steamboat Springs.

The alert said law enforcement was tracking the sow bear and that she had been seen with two cubs.

About an hour later, another alert was sent out saying law enforcement had euthanized the bear and that the shelter in place had been lifted.

According to a news release from Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW), a homeowner noticed his garage door was open about 11 p.m. The man went to close the garage door and encountered the bear and the cubs, CPW said.

As the man slowly backed away, the mother bear attacked him, causing severe lacerations to the man's head and legs, CPW said. The man went through surgery, and his condition was not known, but CPW said he was stable. Wildlife officials said the man's injuries were not considered life-threatening.

After the mother bear was euthanized, CPW said officers were still searching for the two cubs. They said their officers will trap the cubs and move them to a rehabilitation facility.

This was the first reported bear attack in the Steamboat Springs area this year, CPW said.

RELATED: Woman killed in southwestern Colorado bear attack identified

This was the second reported bear attack in Colorado this year. In late April, a 39-year-old woman in La Plata County was killed by another sow bear with two yearlings. That bear and the yearlings were euthanized by CPW officers.

In the necropsies, CPW said the sow bear and one of the yearling's stomachs contained human remains. All three bears were in good body condition with adequate fat stores appropriate for the season, CPW said. Black bears typically lose between 20% and 27% of their body fat during hibernation.

"Euthanizing wildlife is never an action our officers take lightly, but we have an obligation to prevent additional avoidable harm," said CPW Director Dan Prenzlow.

Cory Chick, CPW Southwest Region manager, said it was likely that the bears in La Plata County would attack humans again.

"Once a bear injures or consumes humans, we will not risk the chance that this could happen to someone else," Chick said. "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."

The deadly attack in La Plata County was the first fatal attack in Colorado since August 2009, according to CPW.

Colorado's black bear population was estimated between 17,000 and 20,000. Over the past two years, CPW said it received 10,312 reports of bear sightings and conflicts.

Of those, 3,389 involved garbage, which attracts bears and is a major source of conflicts with humans. CPW said it took another 879 reports of black bears breaking into homes, dwellings or garages.

CPW encouraged people to be "Bear Aware" when in bear country. That includes securing trash, removing attractants like bird feeders and pet food from yards, removing food from vehicles, securing chicken coops and livestock and keeping garage doors closed.

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