Woman Found Dead in 2023 Was California’s First Fatal Black Bear Attack Victim

It was initially assumed that the bear entered Patrice Miller's home after she died

<p>Getty</p> Stock image of an American black bear


Stock image of an American black bear

The death of a California woman, whose body was found in her home last November and was subsequently attributed to a mauling by a black bear, has been deemed as the first such fatality in the state's history.

In a statement obtained by PEOPLE on Friday, June 2, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) confirmed that it received an autopsy report from the Sierra County Sheriff’s Office about a 71-year-old woman in Downieville who was found dead in her house after a black bear attacked her in November.

“Authorities initially believed the bear had entered the woman’s house after she had died,” read the CDFW statement, “but the coroner’s report confirmed that, ultimately, the bear caused the woman’s death.”

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“This incident is the first known, documented fatal attack by a black bear in California history,” the statement continued.

The CDFW added that a black bear was caught and euthanized. A DNA analysis confirmed it was the same animal that had been in the woman’s home and mauled her.

PEOPLE reached out to the Sierra County Sheriff’s Office for additional information, but they did not immediately respond.

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In an interview with NBC affiliate KCRA, Sierra County Sheriff Mike Fisher said that in November, his office received a call for a welfare check on a 71-year-old woman, later identified as Patrice Miller. At the time, she reportedly had not been seen in a couple of days.

When authorities arrived at Miller’s residence, per Fisher, they saw that the door was broken and bear scat on the porch. They then found Miller’s body inside.

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

Related: How to Prevent Bear Attacks and What to Do If a Bear Approaches You, According to Experts

In a statement shared on Facebook in November 2023, the Sierra County Sheriff’s Office had initially suggested that the bear may have entered Miller's home after she died, perhaps drawn to a scent.

“The Sierra County Sheriff’s Office extends its deepest condolences to the family and friends of Patrice Miller during this difficult time,” the sheriff’s office said in its statement, “The loss of a community member is always a tragedy, and our thoughts are with those affected by this unfortunate event.

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According to The Los Angeles Times, black bear attacks on humans are rare in California, especially one that leads to death before this case – adding that the state is home to about 25,000-35,000 black bears.

The U.S. Census reported that Downieville has a population of 290, per its most recent data.

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