Dead California woman was victim of first known fatal black bear attack in state

A 71-year-old woman found dead in her small Sierra Nevada mountain community was the victim of California’s first fatal black bear attack, wildlife officials announced this week.

When Patrice Miller was found dead in Downieville in November, the Sierra County Sheriff’s Office said they believed a bear entered the woman’s home after her death. But an autopsy recently confirmed that the bear killed her, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said.

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

Miller was found Nov. 8 in Downieville, which has a population of about 290 and is about 50 miles northwest of Lake Tahoe, after sheriff’s deputies conducted a welfare check.

A preliminary investigation indicated that she died before the bear made it to the home. the sheriff’s office said at the time.

The state wildlife department said Thursday that “the coroner’s report confirmed that ultimately it was the bear that caused the woman’s death.”

The bear mauled Miller, the wildlife department said. The animal was trapped and killed, and DNA confirmed it was responsible for the attack, according to the release.

There are about 35,000 black bears in California, up from about 10,000 to 15,000 in 1982, according to the state wildlife department, and they are the subject of a state conservation plan.

Adult male black bears can weigh around 400 pounds, and females typically weigh between 100 and 300 pounds, according to the department. says on its website. This is the only type of bear in California, although they are not always black and can be cinnamon brown.

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