California woman, 71, mauled to death in state’s first fatal black bear attack | California

A 71-year-old woman was mauled to death by a black bear in a Sierra Nevada community in 2023 in what is believed to be California’s first fatal black bear attack, the state department of fish and wildlife confirmed this week.

Patrice Miller was found dead in her Downieville home in November by a Sierra county sheriff’s deputy who was called to the residence to check on the senior after she had not been seen for several days, KCRA3 reported.

“Upon showing up, [they] immediately saw evidence of bear intrusion into the house,” Mike Fisher, the county sheriff, told the outlet. “The door was broken. There was bear scat on the porch.”

Authorities initially believed Miller had died of natural causes before the bear entered her home and mauled her, but earlier this year a pathologist determined she had been fatally attacked by the animal.

The California department of fish and wildlife confirmed the incident is the first known and documented fatal black bear attack in state history.

The bear responsible for the attack in Downieville, a small mountain town near the Tahoe national forest, was later trapped and euthanized, the department said in a statement. Authorities used DNA testing to confirm that the bear was the same animal responsible for her death.

The region has long had an issue with bears rummaging near homes and yards looking for food. Around the nearby Lake Tahoe, a popular designation for winter skiing and summer recreation, there has been an increase in bear break-ins in recent years.

In Downieville, Miller’s daughter said that bears were frequently trying to get in “through broken windows, and that her mother had physically hit one to keep it from entering her residence”, KCRA reported. She had reportedly named one bear who was a regular visitor “big bastard”.

The sheriff told the outlet that Miller’s home had a lot of “bear attractants”, and that she would feed her cats on the front porch of the house.

Last month, a bear tried to break into several Downieville homes and was later shot by deputies as it attempted to gain access into a local school gym.

“Since early May, the sheriff’s office has been inundated with daily reports from distressed homeowners and business owners regarding bears breaking into residences and vehicles, creating havoc and endangering local residents,” the sheriff’s office said of the most recent incident.

“Given the escalating danger posed by the bear’s behavior and the imminent threat it presented to residents, deputies were left with no choice but to euthanize the bear in the interest of public safety.”

The sheriff’s office advises residents in Downieville to take precautions to avoid encounters with bears and other wildlife, including closing doors and windows, locking vehicles and removing any outside food sources such as garbage.

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