A coroner has identified a 39-year-old woman killed in a bear attack Friday night as Laney Malavolta of Durango.
Sparse snippets of Malavolta’s life could be gathered from social media. Her father’s girlfriend, Kim Strain, asked for prayers and support for the family.
“She will be sorely missed by many,” Strain said in a social media post Monday. “We love you Laney.” Her father was identified as Steve Malavolta.
The post has since been removed.
Justin Rangel, who lived at the same address, according to state records, could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.
A neighbor said it was “tough” and declined to comment out of respect for the family. Other neighbors could not be reached.
La Plata County Coroner Jann Smith released the identity and autopsy results Tuesday.
Malavolta was found dead Friday off County Road 203 near Trimble Lane, north of Durango. During an examination Saturday night, a state wildlife pathologist found human remains inside the stomachs of two black bears found nearby.
Both the necropsy results from the bears and the autopsy results confirmed the bears caused Malavolta’s death, Smith said.
“They grabbed her by the neck,” she said. “It was extensive damage.”
The official cause of death was a perforating injury to the neck. It was ruled an accident by Mike Arnall, who conducted the autopsy, and Smith, who assisted.
Malavolta was apparently on a walk with her dogs, according to the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office, which spoke with her boyfriend. The boyfriend told the Sheriff’s Office he returned home about 8:30 p.m. and found the two dogs outside their home, but Malavolta was missing. He searched for her and found her body about 9:30 p.m. He then called 911 to report the incident.
Wildlife officers suspected a bear attack based on the trauma and obvious signs of consumption on the body and an abundance of bear scat and hair at the scene.
Three bears, the sow (female bear) and her two yearlings, were discovered near the woman’s body after a search by CPW wildlife officers, which included a team of U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services trained tracking dogs.
No human remains were found in the stomach of a second yearling euthanized with the other two.
Bear attacks are considered extremely rare in Colorado. There were about 85 recorded attacks on humans between 1960 and 2020. Three of those were fatal. Malavolta’s death is the fourth fatal attack in the same time range, according to CPW records.
“Of course, it’s a frightening and a tragic incident,” said Rebecca Ferrell, CPW spokesperson. “We don’t want this to stop people from going out and doing the things you love. In Colorado, we share space with wildlife, so just take the small recommended precautions to be bear aware. If you do that, odds are an encounter is it’s never going to be something you’ll have to deal with.”