Bear ransacked dead woman's home with her body still inside

Cops struggle to investigate death of woman, 71, after BEAR broke into her California home and ransacked the place while her body was still inside – and it keeps returning

  • Patrice Miller, 71, was found dead in her home on November 8 with signs that a bear had broken into the property after her death
  • Officers believe the bear was drawn in by the scent of her decomposing body 
  • There have been many bear sightings in the surrounding area as seasonal bear activity rises

Police investigating the death of a 71-year-old woman in California discovered a bear had broken in and trashed her home while her body was still inside. 

Sierra County Sheriff’s deputies conducted a welfare check on Patrice Miller, 71, in Downieville, northern California, on November 8 after receiving reports she had been seen for days. 

Officers forced their way into her home and discovered her dead body inside and noted the house had been ransacked, with signs that led them to believe a bear had entered the property. 

While sheriffs are still trying ‘to piece together the sequence of events’, they believe that after Miller died, a bear broke in looking for food. 

Sierra County Sheriff Mike Fisher told SFGATE: ‘The bear caused damage to the front door, refrigerator and made a large mess inside the house.’

A post shared by Downieville Crittercam (@downieville_crittercam)

Downieville is in the remote Sierra high country in California

Downieville is located along Highway 49 in the Lost Sierra region of the Tahoe National Forest

The bear also reportedly ‘interfered’ with Miller’s body, but the details of this are unclear. 

Sheriff Fisher added: ‘It is believed that Patrice Miller passed away before a bear, possibly drawn by the scent or other factors, accessed the residence.’

The animal has since returned to the home, Fisher said: ‘Deputies have chased it off the property several times.’

In the Sierra high country around the town, seasonal bear activity is on the rise. 

Ann Bryant of the Bear League of the Lake Tahoe basin, told CBS: ‘Right now, they are all in hyperphagia which is when they eat, eat, eat, they can’t stop eating. They eat 20 hours a day.’

She added that their desperate hunt for food will drive them into homes and that the scent of a decomposing body would smell like a meal to them.

She said: ‘Bears have an incredible sense of smell. That would have smelled to a bear like food.’

A local ‘Downieville Crittercam’ has caught significant evidence of bears in the surrounding area in the last week. 

One night time video, captioned ‘Double Trouble’ caught two bears wandering through a garden at 3am on Tuesday. 

A video from 4.30am on November 11 caught another bear strolling up into the garden from the river and sniffing about for food.

The caption reads: ‘Chonky bear comes up from the river, grubs in the yard a while, then takes a different path back down to the river. Go to sleep, chonky one.’

A bear was spotted wandering into a nearby garden this week 

A post shared by Downieville Crittercam (@downieville_crittercam)

Camera footage recently recorded a curious bear in the surrounding area 

The bear which broke into Miller’s home has not been identified or caught.

According to the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife black bears are the only wild bears in the state.

Sierra County Sheriff’s deputies warned local residents to take extra precautions. 

They said: ‘Fish and Wildlife officials are working with the sheriff’s office to ensure public safety and understand the bear’s behavior. 

‘Residents in the vicinity of Downieville are advised to exercise caution and take necessary precautions to avoid potential encounters with all wildlife. 

‘Closing ground-level doors and windows at night, locking vehicles, and removing all outside food sources, including garbage, is highly recommended.’

They added: ‘The Sierra County Sheriff’s Office extends its deepest condolences to the family and friends of Patrice Miller during this difficult time. 

‘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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