A sheepherder was critically injured in a predawn bear attack in southwestern Colorado Tuesday, authorities said.
The unidentified 35-year-old man was near a campsite in the Weminuche Wilderness above Lemon Reservoir in the San Juan National Forest early Tuesday, Colorado Parks and Wildlife said in a statement Wednesday.
The man worked for a permit holder for a sheep herding assignment, park officials said.
He was awakened by a disturbance between a black bear and his sheep around 1 a.m., park officials said.
The pastor suffered «bite wounds to the head, as well as additional wounds to his left hand and arm, severe lacerations to his left hip area, and scratches to his back,» the statement said.
“This is an unfortunate incident and we are grateful that the victim was able to contact help to deploy emergency services and that he was able to be extracted for necessary medical attention,” said Adrián Archuleta, area wildlife manager. of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. .
Park officials said the herder fired a rifle at the bear before it attacked him.
After he was badly injured, the pastor crawled to his tent to contact his cousin. He was airlifted to Mercy Regional Medical Center.
Three wildlife officers arrived at the camp at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday and saw a trail of blood and the victim’s rifle. They also collected multiple DNA samples from the scene, park officials said. There were also two dead sheep with «injuries consistent with bear predation,» park officials said.
An agent with the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service was contacted. A dog team was used to search for the bear, park officials said, saying they weren’t sure if the bear had been hit by a rifle shot.
The dogs found the scent of a bear and followed it. A federal agent investigating the incident shot and killed the bear shortly before 11 p.m. Tuesday, park officials said.
The incident was classified as an «attack» and, per agency policy, the bear had to be euthanized, park officials said.
The 8-year-old male bear weighed about 250 pounds, park officials said.
Until the DNA results come back from the lab, Archuleta said, it’s not 100% certain that the bear that was killed was the bear that attacked the herder.
“But based on the information we have at this time, we are certain that it is the offending bear,” he said.
The bear had wounds on its chest. Investigators could not determine if it was due to a shot from the shepherd, park officials said.
It was the first reported bear attack in Colorado this year, park officials said.