Laney Malavolta was found dead north of Durango, Colorado, on April 30 in a wooded area near U.S. Highway 550. Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the La Plata County Coroner’s Office confirmed Tuesday that Malavolta’s death was the result of a black bear attack.
According to a press release by CPW, 39-year-old Malavolta, a Durango resident, was walking her dogs when the incident occurred. Justin Rangel, Malavolta’s boyfriend, arrived home at 8:30 p.m. to find the two dogs waiting outside the house, but without Malavolta. He immediately started searching for her and discovered her body around 9:30 p.m.
CPW wildlife officials observed signs of consumption on the body and an abundance of bear scat at the scene. With the assistance of a dog team from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, investigators quickly found a sow black bear with two yearling cubs in the area. All three bears were euthanized and taken to CPW’s Wildlife Health Lab in Fort Collins for necropsies.
“Once a bear injures or consumes humans, we will not risk the chance that this could happen to someone else,” Cory Chick, CPW Southwest Region manager said. “We humanely euthanize that bear because of the severity of the incident. 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.”
Necropsies revealed human remains in the digestive tracts of the sow and one of the yearlings. The sow was around 200 pounds and likely over 10 years old. All three bears were in good condition with adequate fat stores and no signs of disease or abnormality that would cause this attack. La Plata County Coroner Jann Smith said that the official cause of death was a perforating injury to the neck.
“It was extensive damage,” she said.
In the last 60 years there have been 85 recorded black bear attacks on humans in Colorado, four of which have been fatal according to CPW records. “Bear attacks are extremely rare,” Chick said. “This is a tragic event and a sad reminder that bears are wild and potentially dangerous.”
Malavota’s family and boyfriend issued a joint statement in her remembrance: “While Laney’s physical presence was suddenly taken from this earth, all that know and love her can take comfort; Laney’s soul will live forever in her favorite place, doing her favorite thing. She would not have wanted it any other way.”
MeatEater sends its condolonces to Malavota's family and friends.
Feature image via Eric Kilby.