MESA COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Authorities in Grand Junction have killed the bear they believe attacked a 5-year-old girl outside her home early Sunday morning.
Wildlife officials say bear attacks are rare in that area.
The girl ventured outside at 2:30 a.m. Sunday to investigate noises in the yard she may have thought was her dog.
The attack happened in East Orchard Mesa, an unincorporated area near Grand Junction, about 240 miles west of Denver.
“This bear was about 125 to 130 pounds, about two years old,” said Colorado Parks and Wildlife Area Wildlife Manager Kirk Oldham during a news conference on Monday afternoon.
The girl’s mother heard a commotion, investigated, and discovered a large black bear dragging her daughter.
She told authorities that the bear dropped the girl after she yelled at it.
“I think the true hero in all of this is the mother. Before the sun rose on the morning of Mother’s Day, she truly exemplified the love and courage of what it takes to be a mother and because of those actions, her child is here today,” said Colorado Parks & Wildlife Northwest Regional manager JT Romatzke.
The girl suffered serious injuries including dozens of internal and external stitches. She is in good condition at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Grand Junction. Her doctor says she was bit on her backside but didn’t suffer any fractures or serious injuries to her organs.
“Fortunately she had no life-threatening injuries, no injuries to her brain or chest organs or abdominal organs and no fractures. These were injuries to the skin and subcutaneous tissues and muscle on her backside,” said pediatric surgeon. Dr. Charles Breaux, Jr.
“She’s been the calmest person in the room all day long,” he said. “She’s in very good spirits and her family is in good spirits, too. They’re thankful that she wasn’t injured worse than she was.”
CPW told CBS4 Sunday afternoon they set up three traps in the neighborhood which were left overnight.
“We intend to catch this bear,” said an agency spokesman, Mike Porras, on Sunday.
Wildlife officials said they observed the bear walking up to a residence about a half-mile away from the location of the attack early Monday. Officers shot and killed the bear before it entered the trap.
Based on the description of the bear and its behavior, wildlife officers are confident the dead bear is the same bear involved in the attack on the girl.
“The necropsy, along with DNA results will provide the confirmation, but we are confident we have the right bear,” said Area Wildlife Manager Kirk Oldham in a statement. “However, we will leave all three traps in place for the time being out of an abundance of caution.”
The bear will be sent to Fort Collins facility for necropsy.
“In the state we manage some 17,000 to 20,000 bears in a state of 5.7 million people. These kinds of incidents are rare, but they also do indeed occur,” said Romatzke.
There were five bear attacks in Colorado last year. This marks the first in recent memory in the Grand Valley where bears are rarely spotted.
Parks and Wildlife officials remind residents to secure trash, keep pet food inside and immediately report any bear sightings in this neighborhood, or any residential area.