OURAY – An autopsy on the body Ouray County woman shows she was killed by a bear, according to Investigator Joel Burk of the Ouray County Sheriff’s Office.

The body of Donna Munson, 74, who lived about four miles north of Ouray, was discovered Aug. 7 by a handyman seeking work, said Tyler Baskfield, spokesman for the state Division of Wildlife. The man went to a neighbor’s house and called 911.

After Ouray deputies arrived at the scene, a young male, 250-pound bear was shot and killed after it approached aggressively. The next morning, a large male bear weighing 394 pounds was also shot and killed by U.S. Department of Agriculture working under the authority of the DOW.

Baskfield said it was unclear which bear killed Munson, but necropsy results showed that the larger bear had consumed some of her body. Tests on the smaller bear were inconclusive.

An autopsy conducted by pathologist Dr. Michael Benziger showed that Munson was struck unconscious by 250-pound bear that reached through a fence she had constructed around her porch, Burk said.

The bear then managed to drag Munson under the fence where it was wrapped around a stairwell.

“The official cause of death was multiple trauma due to bear attack and the manner of death was ruled accidental,” Burk said.

The bear appears to have swatted or struck Munson on the head, Burk said, based on claw marks and hemorrhaging, according to the pathologist’s report.

“It basically knocked her out and caused her to go unconscious,” he said, based on the pathologist’s report.

“It was very evident at the scene that she had been drug off the porch into the yard, where she was then devoured by the bear,” he said.

Munson had been warned repeatedly for more than 10 years not to feed the bears by both the Ouray Sheriff’s Office and the state Division of Wildlife, but with no solid proof, she was never cited or fined, he said, because all the evidence was hearsay.

“We never got a photo of her actually putting the food out, but she had been warned a number of times,” he said.

He wouldn’t speculate on whether meting out some sort of fine or citation might have caused her to stop feeding the bears.

But Burk said he doubts anything would have, and that her fence was constructed to surround the porch so she could feed the bears.

“It’s seven or eight feet high, up to the roof line, regular farm-type wire with holes about 4x4 inches,” he said. “The fence was just around her porch and I’ve been told it was constructed that way — openly — so that she could feed the bears through the fence but they could not get to her.”

Burk said he interviewed one neighbor who had given Munson a ride into town and was alarmed to learn she was putting out dog food to attract bears.

“The neighbor was very against it and told Miss Munson, ‘You need to stop doing that. You’re endangering yourself and also endangering neighboring houses,’ ” Burk said

Even her relatives pleaded with Munson to stop feeding the bears, Burk said, and her refusal to do so was “unfortunately a conscious decision.”

Munson’s death should be a wake up call to the public, he said.

“Do not feed wildlife in general,” he said. “It is against the law, it is illegal, and eventually will put you and the public in danger.”

A news release from the DOW states that officials have visited Munson’s home “dozens of times” over the past decade to investigate reported bear feedings, but “met with no cooperation.”

In early July, a caretaker at the residence concerned about safety, asked DOW officers to place traps on the property to address problems with aggressive bears. On the first day the traps were put out, two bears were trapped and euthanized.

Since the DOW started tracking bear-human encounters in the 1960s, there have been two fatalities: one in Grand County in 1971 and one in Fremont County in 1993, according to the DOW release.

Published Aug. 9

Ouray Woman Eaten by 250-lb Bear

OURAY — The Colorado Division of Wildlife is assisting the Ouray County Sheriff's Department and the Ouray County Coroner in investigating the Aug. 7 death of a 74-year-old woman, Donna Munson.

A visitor to the house observed the woman's body outside the home, and deputies found evidence at the scene that a bear or bears had consumed portions of the body. An autopsy is being conducted to determine whether the bears were involved in the death or came upon the body after death.

As sheriff's deputies were investigating the scene, they were approached by a large five-year-old bear that exhibited aggressive behavior. Deputies shot and killed the bear after it approached them and exhibited no fear of people.

According to the Ouray County Coroner Gary Miller, Munson was the owner and resident of the house. The Ouray County Sheriff's Department is the lead agency in the investigation. A search warrant was issued as part of the ongoing investigation into the cause of death.

The 250-pound male bear was taken to the Colorado State University Diagnostic Lab in Grand Junction where a necropsy was performed. Results of the necropsy were inconclusive as to whether the aggressive bear was involved in the original incident.

Another large male bear was killed at the residence by Wildlife Services branch of the United States Department of Agriculture agents working under the authority of the division on Friday night. Another necropsy will be performed. Pending the results of the necropsy, the Division will respond to reports of aggressive bears in the area and take appropriate action.

The DOW has investigated residents at Munson’s home for intentionally feeding bears for more than 10 years, according to a DOW news release. Last year, the DOW sent a written notice to Munson and renters at her home warning of the dangers of feeding bears and laying out the potential legal penalties if evidence of feeding was discovered.

Officers have visited the home dozens of times over the past decade to investigate reported feeding, but officers were met with no cooperation. Efforts to trap nuisance bears on the property were rejected numerous times. In early July, a caretaker at the residence, concerned about safety, asked DOW officers to place traps on the property to address problems with aggressive bears. On the first day that traps were placed, two bears were trapped and euthanized.

Munson had constructed a metal fence that covered her porch so that she could feed bears through the fence.

Bears that become habituated to human food are dangerous. The DOW has used an aggressive public education campaign to explain to people for many years that “a fed bear is a dead bear.”

Education efforts and regulations have been utilized to highlight the risk of bear feeding — not just to the people who feed wild animals but also to the animals that are fed and must be put down as a result.

Munson's body is being examined by the Montrose County Coroner's Office.

Since the DOW started tracking bear-human encounters in the 1960s, there have been two fatalities: one in Grand County in 1971 and one in Fremont County in 1993, according to the DOW release.

PUBLISHED 8/07:

OURAY COUNTY – The Ouray County Watch has received several reports that a woman was killed by a black bear at a home approximately four miles north of Ouray and east of Highway 550 sometime around 11 a.m. on Friday morning.

Details of the incident have not been released by law enforcement officials. The Watch will report any information as it is made available.