Fatal Black Bear Attack in Sierra County: Woman Found Dead in Home

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Written By Lori Walker

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An autopsy discovered that a woman in California, found dead in her Sierra County home in 2023, was killed by a black bear. This is the first recorded instance of such a deadly attack.

Initially, deputies from the Sierra County Sheriff’s Office went to check on 71-year-old Downieville resident Patrice Miller on Nov. 8, 2023, and found her dead. The sheriff’s office believed she had a bear encounter before her death.

The sheriff’s office initially thought Miller had died before the bear entered her home.

However, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife recently received the autopsy report, confirming that the bear attack caused her death.

The incident in Downieville is the first documented case of a fatal attack by a black bear in California history, according to CDFW officials.

Officials also revealed that the bear involved in the incident was trapped and euthanized. DNA analysis confirmed it was the same bear, CDFW said.

While encounters between humans and black bears are becoming more common in California’s high country, reports of people being injured by them are very rare.

However, some incidents have resulted in serious injuries, such as in 2022, when a woman in North Lake Tahoe encountered a bear in her home.

The rise in bear encounters is attributed to the increasing number of visitors to California’s bear country, like the Lake Tahoe region, and carelessness in securing food and garbage. Earlier in 2024, a record number of bears had already been removed from Tahoe buildings.

Downieville is a small Sierra Nevada community with fewer than 300 residents, about 60 miles northwest of Truckee.

California is home to only one species of bear, the black bear. Unlike grizzly bears, black bears are known for being less confrontational in human encounters.

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