First-ever fatal black bear attack in California’s history confirmed


A woman found dead at her home in a remote, mountainous area was the victim of California’s first fatal black bear attack, wildlife officials say.

The body of Patrice Miller was discovered by sheriff deputies carrying out a welfare check because she hadn’t been seen for days.

After arriving at the property in the Sierra Nevada, they encountered a broken door and bear scat on the porch.

Patrice Miller's home in Downieville. Pic: KCRA/AP
Patrice Miller’s home in Downieville. Pic: KCRA/AP

“It appeared that the bear had probably been there several days and had been feeding on the remains,” Sheriff Mike Fisher told local media.

An autopsy and DNA testing recently confirmed that the bear had killed the 71-year-old.

“This incident is the first known, documented fatal attack by a black bear in California history,” the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said in a statement.

It was originally thought that Ms Miller – who lived in the small town of Downieville – had died before the bear arrived, and the animal had been lured to the property by her scent.

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Concerned neighbours had reported seeing the bear repeatedly return to the house, and it was later trapped and euthanised.

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Steve Gonzalez, a spokesperson for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said: “It’s a big deal. That doesn’t happen in California.

“Normally a bear is going to stay away from you, a bear that hasn’t been normalised to human behaviour.”

Bears breaking into home or trash cans in search of food have become a problem in the state, with some raiding fridges and taking dips in backyard pools and hot tubs.

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