black bear
Credit: California Fish & Wildlife

California Confirms State’s First Fatal Black Bear Attack

The California Department of Fish & Wildlife revealed that 71-year-old Patrice Miller died last November because of a black bear attack.

Last year, authorities discovered the remains of a woman who had at some point been attacked by a bear. What they couldn't figure out, though, was if the bear attacked her before or after she died. But they now say that the bear did in fact kill her.

The California Department of Fish & Wildlife told state and local media that an autopsy report confirmed that 71-year-old Patrice Miller died because of a black bear attack. Her death is the first fatal bear attack in state history.

The first fatal black bear attack in California history

According to an announcement by the Sierra County Sheriff's Office, deputies conducted a wellness check on Miller on Nov. 8, 2023. The requesting party said they had not heard from her for several days. When deputies arrived, they discovered Miller dead inside of her home.

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Based on their preliminary findings, investigators believed that Miller had been attacked by the bear after she died. They thought the scent of her body or other factors attracted the bear. But they kept the case open and collaborated with the state wildlife agency.

Fatal black bear attacks

Experts say bear attacks are rare and fatal bear attacks are even rarer. Since 1900, black bears killed some 67 people in North America. And there have been far fewer fatal brown bear attacks, with about 40 globally. According to the National Park Service, the chances of a bear attack are about 1 in 2.1 million.

However, even with those odds, encounters and attacks still happen. Wildlife experts say bear encounters, which may or may not result in attacks, have increased over the years in the Lake Tahoe area due to carelessness in securing food and garbage.

Still, experts say that if you encounter a black bear, it's more likely to run than fight. But if it does attack, it's most likely doing it out of fear rather than as an act of hunting.