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Human remains found over Nevada County line

Cause of death undetermined, body parts scavenged
By: Amber Marra, Journal Staff Writer
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Nevada County Sheriff's deputies are investigating human remains that were found just over the county line near Dutch Flat on Friday.

Lieutenant Stephen Tripp with the Nevada County Sheriff's Office, confirmed that a skull and "large bones" were found on the Nevada County side of the Bear River near Dutch Flat on Friday.

Initially, Placer County Sheriff's deputies were called out on a missing person's report made by a Dutch Flat resident regarding a transient man who lived in the area and had not been seen in weeks. The man's encampment near Dutch Flat was found and appeared to have been ransacked by animals, Tripp said.

When Placer County Sheriff's deputies discovered the human remains on the Nevada County side of the Bear River and turned the investigation over to the Nevada County Sheriff's Office.

Tripp said deputies found a skull and bones with "some tissue" still attached about 45 minutes away from the man's campsite. The man living there was in his mid-70s.

He added that he cannot confirm the identity of the victim because either dental records or DNA samples will have to be used to do so. Once the victim's identity is confirmed, family members must also be alerted.

The manner in which the victim died is also still unknown.

"We don't know if his injuries were post-mortem or if he died out in the wilderness, so that's something we're trying to investigate right now," Tripp said.

Cadaver dogs will be brought out to the scene to track any other body parts the initial investigation missed. Tripp confirmed that there are no traces of suspicious activity at the scene.

It is also not confirmed what type of animal ransacked the campsite and potentially dragged the body away. Tripp said investigating officers were in a patrol car near the scene when a black bear was spotted in the vicinity.

"They typically won't attack people, but obviously that's an indication that the bear is looking for food," Tripp said.

Ann Bryant, executive director of the Bear Education Aversion Response, or BEAR, League, said it is highly unlikely the black bear has started consuming large amounts of calories in preparation for winter hibernation.

She added that it's also unlikely that the bear attacked the man while he was still alive.

"He probably died of natural causes and had left food unattended that would have of course enticed a bear," Bryant said. "I would absolutely stake my reputation that the bear did not kill that man, but dragged him away."

Bryant also said the body could have been dragged away by another animal, like coyotes or a mountain lion.
"I just hope no one tries to blame this death on the bear," she said.

James Owens, of Dutch Flat, said he knew the man who lived at the encampment for 20 years and that lately the man's health had been declining. Owens said the man told him a bear had come onto his encampment searching for food recently.

"He was very friendly, everyone liked (the man) in Dutch Flat," Owens said. "It's a real loss."

Contact Amber Marra at amberm@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @Amber_AJNews.