By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
An Ethete woman who died on the Wind River Indian Reservation in April following an attack by several loose dogs died as a direct result of dog bites, an autopsy has confirmed.
The cause of death for 42-year-old Shawna Jo Bell was not immediately made public after she was attacked by multiple dogs April 10 while riding her bike on the reservation.
The Fremont County Coroner’s office released Bell’s official autopsy docket on Monday, which also showed she had methamphetamine in her body.
“Bites, lacerations, contusions, (and) avulsions due to dog attack,” were listed as the official cause of Bell’s death, which was also deemed an accident.
The docket describes Bell as a Native American female, 5 feet, 4 inches tall, weighing about 150 pounds with brown hair and eyes. Her clothing and property were collected by the FBI.
The concentration of methamphetamine in her blood was 1,900 nanograms per milliliter.
Erin Ivie, Fremont County’s deputy chief coroner, said she couldn’t quantify the toxicity in terms of its danger to Bell, because, she said, “there is no safe level of methamphetamine.”
“Any amount can be fatal,” added Ivie. “However, if you’re a chronic user you can build a tolerance, just like with anything else.”
Ivie also said that fatalities by dog attack are not particularly more common in Fremont County than elsewhere.
However, Bell’s death in April galvanized several activists on the reservation, who have been trying for several months to implement an ordinance that would penalize owners of malicious dogs.
Darrel Lonebear Sr., security supervisor at Northern Arapaho Housing on the reservation, told Cowboy State Daily in April that he’s been dealing with loose and vicious dogs around the housing complex for 22 years.
Lonebear, who helped craft the proposed dog ordinance, said a real concern is dogs that have begun running in packs, “looking for food.”
They’re also impulsive, Lonebear added, saying “If one attacks, the others jump in.”
The dogs are an integral part of both the Northern Arapaho Housing communities and the rest of the reservation, where, Lonebear said, some homes may have up to eight dogs. Some tribal members ascribe ceremonial significance to the animals as well.
Children come outside to play with the dogs.
“Some of these dogs, they’re mangy, they’re sick, they’re carrying disease; they might be mean and vicious – and these kids don’t know it,” said Lonebear. “If I get a vicious dog that’s attacking a child – and these pit bulls weigh 85, 90 pounds – I’m going to do something about it, here in our housing community.”