Mystery as bear ransacks California home where woman’s body was found

Police in California are investigating after an elderly woman was found dead inside her house, which was subsequently ransacked by a bear.

The Sierra County Sheriff’s office said it believed that the woman, 71-year-old Patrice Miller, had died before the animal entered her home.

Deputies had conducted a welfare check at Miller’s property in Downieville on 8 November, after she had not been heard from for several days.

Upon arrival at the residence, officers forced entry into the home and discovered the body of Miller.

“Preliminary investigation indicates that she passed away prior to the bear's involvement,” the department said in a statement.

The sheriff’s department is working with Fish and Wildlife to piece together the sequence of events leading up to this incident.

It is believed that the bear accessed the residence after Miller’s death “possibly drawn by the scent or other factors, accessed the residence.”

Officials are now working to ensure public safety and understand the bear’s behaviour.

Residents have been advised to take necessary precautions to avoid potentially dangerous encounters with wildlife, including closing ground-level doors and windows at night, locking vehicles, and removing all outside food sources, including garbage.

“The Sierra County Sheriff’s Office extends its deepest condolences to the family and friends of Patrice Miller during this difficult time,” the force said in a statement.

“The loss of a community member is always a tragedy, and our thoughts are with those affected by this unfortunate event.”

According to bear experts, such activity increases during the autumn months ahead of winter hibernation.

“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," Ann Bryant of the Bear League of the Lake Tahoe basin, told CBS News.

Ms Bryant noted that bears have “an incredible sense” of smell and that the animal may simply have been investigating the incident at Miller’s home because “that would have smelled like food”.