California confirms first-ever fatal black bear attack on human

Black bear on Road Mr Rainier, Washington, USA
The last fatal black bear attack in the US was a year ago (Image credit: Getty)

Wildlife officials in California have confirmed the first known case of a black bear killing a human in the state. 

Local news outlets report that a 71-year-old woman named Patrice Miller was discovered dead in her home in Downieville in Tahoe National Forest by officers performing a welfare check back on November 8, 2023. At the time, officials pointed to evidence that a black bear had been involved, however they remained unsure as to whether or not Miller had already died of natural causes when the bear entered her home.

On Thursday, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife revealed that an  autopsy has now confirmed Miller was killed by the bear. The bear involved was identified using DNA and has been euthanized.

While grizzly bears are known to attack humans – just last month, we reported on a visitor to Grand Teton National Park who was mauled on a hike – it's highly unusual for black bears to attack humans, and for those attacks to be fatal. The last fatal black bear attack in the US occurred a year ago in Arizona when a man was attacked in his campsite, and prior to that the most recent deadly incident was a 2021 attack in Colorado which killed a woman hiking with her dogs.

Black bear walking through forest

The bear involved was identified using DNA and has been euthanized (Image credit: Getty Images)

According to reporting by CBS News, human-bear encounters in California are increasing due to rising numbers of people entering the backcountry, and carelessness in securing food and garbage. If you live in or recreate in bear country, the chances of a bear encounter are relatively low, but it's important to practice basic bear safety:

Read our article on what to do if you meet a bear to educate yourself on best practices for keeping yourself and others safe, and wildlife wild.

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.