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CPW News Release
CPW News Release
Sheep herder attacked by bear northeast of Durango

John Livingston
Southwest Region Public Information Officer

Sheep herder attacked by a bear northeast of Durango

DURANGO, Colo. – A bear attacked and severely injured a 35-year-old man early Tuesday morning near a camp in the Weminuche Wilderness above Lemon Reservoir, located roughly 23 miles northeast of Durango.
The victim was a herder working for a permit holder of a sheep grazing allotment on the San Juan National Forest. He sustained bite wounds to his head as well as additional wounds to his left hand and arm, severe lacerations to his left hip area 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.
At roughly 1 a.m. Tuesday, the victim reported being woken up by a disturbance at the camp involving his sheep and a black bear. The victim reported having fired a .30-30 caliber rifle at the bear before it attacked him.
Following the attack, the victim was able to crawl to his tent and contact his cousin. Emergency services were summoned to airlift the victim to Mercy Regional Medical Center. At the hospital, CPW was able to collect DNA samples from the victim. After the victim received initial treatment, the victim was flown to Grand Junction for surgery.
CPW was notified of the attack at 4 a.m., and three wildlife officers were at the Transfer Park trailhead and on scene of the camp near the Burnt Timber Trail by 8:30 a.m. They quickly discovered a blood trail, the victim’s rifle and collected multiple DNA samples from the attack scene. CPW also discovered two dead sheep at the site with wounds consistent with bear depredation.
The officers began to search for the bear, unsure if it had been hit by any of the rifle shots fired by the victim. CPW contacted an agent from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) with a team of dogs to search for the bear.
The dog team arrived at 5 p.m. and began to work the scene. Soon after, the hounds alerted a scent trail on the south side of the creek drainage and were immediately in pursuit of a bear suspected in the attack. 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. At 10:53 p.m., the APHIS agent shot and killed the bear.
Because the bear made contact with a human, it is classified under CPW policy as an attack and the agency’s policy is to euthanize the bear.
“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.”
CPW officers inspected the bear, which was estimated to be approximately an 8-year-old boar (male) and weighing an estimated 250 pounds. The bear had wounds in the chest area, but officers were unable to determine if they were gunshot wounds fired by the victim.
CPW collected evidence from the bear and several DNA samples that were sent to the CPW Wildlife Health Lab in Fort Collins for testing to compare it with samples collected at the attack scene. 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.
“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.”

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

For information on Living with Bears, go to:
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CPW is an enterprise agency, relying primarily on license sales, state parks fees and registration fees to support its operations, including: 43 state parks and more than 350 wildlife areas covering approximately 900,000 acres, management of fishing and hunting, wildlife watching, camping, motorized and non-motorized trails, boating and outdoor education. CPW's work contributes approximately $6 billion in total economic impact annually throughout Colorado.
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