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A 35-year-old herder was severely injured after a bear attack in Colorado

<i>Prisma by Dukas/Universal Images Group/Getty Images</i><br/>A bear severely injured a 35-year-old herder who was working for a sheep grazing allotment on the San Juan National Forest in Colorado
Prisma by Dukas/Universal Images Group/Getty Images
A bear severely injured a 35-year-old herder who was working for a sheep grazing allotment on the San Juan National Forest in Colorado

By Raja Razek, CNN

(CNN) — A bear severely injured a 35-year-old herder who was working for a sheep grazing allotment on the San Juan National Forest in Colorado, officials said Wednesday.

The man suffered bite wounds to his head as well as other injuries to his body in the Tuesday attack near a camp in the Weminuche Wilderness above Lemon Reservoir, which is located roughly 23 miles northeast of Durango, according to a news release from Colorado Parks & Wildlife.

The attack happened around 1 a.m. Tuesday when the man said he was awakened by a disturbance at the camp involving his sheep and a black bear, park officials said in the news release. The man had fired a rifle at the bear before the attack, officials noted.

Following the attack, the man crawled to his tent and contacted his cousin, according to the news release.

Colorado Parks & Wildlife were notified of the attack at 4 a.m., and three wildlife officers arrived to the attack scene by 8:30 a.m., officials said in the news release.

“They quickly discovered a blood trail, the victim’s rifle and collected multiple DNA samples from the attack scene,” park officials said.

Officers found two dead sheep with wounds consistent with a bear attack, and officers along with hounds began searching for the animal, officials added.

“The hounds pursued the bear to the Florida River, and CPW officers followed in steep and treacherous terrain following the GPS signal from the collars of the dogs,” officials said in the news release.

At 10:53 p.m., an agent with the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service shot and killed the bear, according to the news release.

Colorado Parks & Wildlife officials said its policy is to euthanize bears if they make contact with humans.

“This is a difficult part of the job,” Colorado Parks & Wildlife Area Wildlife Manager Adrian Archuleta said in the release. “But when it comes to injuries to humans as a result of a predator attack, human health and safety is our top priority.”

The approximately 8-year-old, 250-pound bear was inspected, according to CPW.

“The bear had wounds in the chest area, but officers were unable to determine if they were gunshot wounds fired by the victim,” officials said. “CPW did discover sheep wool in the bear’s stomach contents. As part of CPW’s testing, the bear will be checked for disease such as rabies because the victim was bitten by the animal.”

DNA testing results will confirm whether the bear killed was the offending bear, Archuleta noted.

“But based on the information we have at this point, we feel confident that it is the offending bear,” he added.

This is the first reported bear attack in Colorado in 2023, according to the release, and the first in La Plata County since April 2021.

Wildlife managers estimate that Colorado is home to between 17,000 and 20,000 bears as the population is stable and growing, according to Colorado Parks & Wildlife.

Last year, there were more than 4,000 bear reports and 2,400 sightings in Colorado, data from the parks and wildlife department shows. The agency had received more than 170 reports of bear activity in 25 Colorado counties this year, it said in a May news release.

The-CNN-Wire
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CNN’s Aya Elamroussi contributed to this report.

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