Wednesday, June 19, 2024

CA: Woman Killed by Black Bear in her Home; F&W was in Denial

Link to youtube video

On November 8, 2023, the Sierra County Sheriff deputies performed a welfare check on 71 year old Patrice Miller at her home in Downieville, California. At the house rented by Miller, they found a gruesome scene. The door had been broken in. There was bear scat on the porch. What was left of Miller's body was inside. The bear had been feeding on it for several days. California has a rapidly growing bear population and rapidly increasing numbers of bear-human conflicts.

Downieville is a small village at the confluence of the Yuba and North Downie rivers, 54 miles west of Reno, Nevada, at a few feet less than  3,000 foot elevation. It is home to about 325 people. It was founded during the gold rush in the 1850's, and had a population of over 5,000 population  at its peak. It is wild country, with the town making most of its income from tourism.

Downieville is the county seat for Sierra County. The Sierra County Sheriff is Mike Fisher. Patrice Miller's home was a short walk from Sheriff Fisher's office.  Once Sheriff Fisher determined a bear had been feeding on a human body, He asked the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to issue a depredation permit so the bear could be legally trapped. CDFW refused to issue a permit. They said the request had to come from the house's resident.  From the

CDFW told Fisher that the depredation permit had to be requested by the house’s resident despite the fact that the resident was deceased and that the Sheriff’s Office could not make a request on its own. The homeowner eventually was able to issue a request, after which the permit was issued, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture trapper was called.

Early in the investigation the bear was assumed to have found Patrice dead and had simply started to consume her body.  The Sierra County Coroner thought such was the case. The report by the Placer County pathologist stated Miller had been killed by the bear with a bite to the neck. 20 years earlier, Patrice Miller had multiple organ failures and had not been expected to live.  

Patrice Miller's daughter reported her mother was having constant problems with bears who were attempting to break into her home. From

Miller’s daughter told officials that “bears were constantly trying to get in through broken windows and that her mother had physically hit one to keep it from entering her residence.” Her mother even nicknamed one of the bears that was a “frequent visitor to the residence, and a nuisance,” according to a Sheriff’s Office report.

Sheriff Fisher said he had not been made aware of a bear problem at Patrice Miller's residence.  CDFW stated this was the first documented case of a fatal black bear attack in the history of California.

Within two days of the trap being set for the bear, a bear was caught. The authorities knew the offending bear was a male.  A female CDFW biologist claimed the trapped bear appeared to be female, and should be released. Sheriff Fisher refused to do so, impounded the trap and bear, and insisted the bear be tranquilized so its sex could be determined.  After about 10 hours, and a threat by Sheriff Fisher to call KCRA 3 to document the release of the bear, CDFW tranquilized the bear. It was determined to be a boar (male) and the Sheriff had it euthanized. Several months later, the CDFW released DNA results confirming the bear which had been trapped and killed was the offending bear.

 Man eating bear trapped in Downiesville image by Sierra County Sheriff's Office

A CDFW  departmental bulletin states a decision to kill bears involved in bear-human conflicts may only be made by the Regional Manager (RM) or Response Guidance Team (RGT).

In Conflict Bear incidents where management options have been exhausted, the decision to  remove the bear from the population (i.e., lethally taken, relocated, or captured for long term captivity), may only be made by the RM or RGT.  

Sheriff Fisher reports there has been a change in policy by the CDFW. Before 2022, game wardens in the field could issue depredation permits when necessary. According to the draft bear plan (figure 6 on page 33) about 65 black bears were killed under authority of the permits in 2021. Only 30 were killed in 2022.

California bear depredation permits and kills 2017-2022. 

The number of bears killed is decreasing significantly while the number of bears and bear-human conflicts is growing rapidly.

Bear human conflicts as reported in the draft bear plan. 

As long as the California bureaucracy places emphasis on protecting bears at the expense of human treasure and property rights, the conflicts will continue to rise.

If a bear attempts to enter your home in California, you may shoot it to prevent it from entering. In California, firearms which are not grandfathered in your possession are supposed to be registered. Ammunition purchases are supposed to be registered. You have to take a class to purchase a gun, and wait about two weeks to take possession. With the legal complexity, it may be understandable why Patrice Miller did not have a gun to shoot a bear which was breaking into her home.

©2024 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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1 comment:

Jim said...

The CDFW policies are in keeping with the Democrat Party's degrowth initiatives.