Sheepherder is severely injured when black bear attacks him in Colorado wilderness

Jul 14, 2023, 10:46 AM | Updated: 2:06 pm

DENVER (AP) — A black bear attacked a sheepherder in the Colorado mountains, leaving the 35-year-old man severely injured with bites to his head and other wounds, wildlife officials said. The bear suspected of attacking him was later killed.

The attack, the first reported in Colorado this year, happened early Tuesday in the Weiminuche Wilderness in the San Juan National Forest in southwestern Colorado, the state Parks and Wildlife department said in a news release.

The man awoke to a disturbance between the bear and his sheep at about 1 a.m. and fired a rifle at the bear before being attacked, the agency said. The man was bitten on the head and had wounds to an arm and hand, officials said.

After managing to return to his tent and contact his cousin, he was airlifted to one hospital and then another for surgery, it said. He was released on Wednesday.

He worked for a rancher who had a permit to allow sheep to graze in the remote area, the agency said, a common summer practice with livestock.

State wildlife officials worked with an agent and a team of dogs from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service to track the bear. A male bear with chest wounds and weighing about 250 pounds was found and shot Tuesday night, Parks and Wildlife officials said.

“This is a difficult part of the job,” Parks and Wildlife area wildlife manager Adrian Archuleta said in the news 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 bear also killed two sheep and fed on them, Parks and Wildlife spokesperson John Livingston said Friday. Wool was found in its stomach and human DNA was found on its claws, but further testing is needed to confirm that the DNA matches that taken from the human, he said.

The bear tested negative for rabies, Livingston said.

Black bears eat mostly berries and acorns but will attack smaller animals like sheep, goats and chickens if they have an opportunity, he said.

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Sheepherder is severely injured when black bear attacks him in Colorado wilderness