Animal attack “highly unlikely” in Dylan Redwine’s death, biologist testifies

Several factors make it highly unlikely that 13-year-old Dylan Redwine was killed by an animal when he disappeared from his father’s La Plata County home in November 2012, a biologist testified Wednesday during the murder trial for Dylan’s father, who is accused of killing the boy.

The expert testimony undermines 59-year-old Mark Redwine’s defense that a wild animal killed Dylan after the boy left home on Nov. 19, 2012. Redwine is standing trial on charges of second-degree murder and child abuse resulting in Dylan’s death.

Fatal bear and cougar attacks are already rare, biologist Heather Johnson testified, but the conditions around the time Dylan disappeared, coupled with the place where his remains were found, make it even more unlikely he suffered an animal attack — and particularly a bear attack.

During the fall of 2012, Johnson was part of a multi-year research project that was tracking bear behavior in the Durango area, particularly focusing on conflicts between bears and humans. The researchers collared and tracked more than 400 bears, and pinpointed the time of year that bears hibernated.

In 2012, bears in the Durango area hibernated early, she testified. The average start date for hibernation among tracked bears was Oct. 11, she said, and the latest tracked bear to hibernate that year did so on Nov. 11 — days before Dylan disappeared.

Bear conflicts with humans are more likely in areas with ample human food sources, like trash cans or houses, which was not the case in the area of Middle Mountain where Dylan’s bones were found, she said. Also, bears become less active in the weeks before hibernation, she testified, and stop looking for food. The animals tend to avoid areas near forest roads, like the one Dylan’s bones were found near, during hunting season, she said.

There have been four recorded fatal bear attacks in Colorado since 1900. Fatal mountain lion attacks are even more rare: just two in the state, Johnson testified. Both bears and cougars are unlikely to drag a carcass more than a couple hundred yards from the site of a kill. A coyote might pick up a bone and carry it several hundred yards, Johnson testified.

Dylan’s skull was found about 1.5 miles as the crow flies from the rest of his remains. One of the hikers who found the skull, Daniel Foster, testified that he thought the area around the skull was an “animal den,” because the grass was pushed down and there were clumps of fur in the brush.

Testimony in the murder trial will continue Thursday.

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