A man living “off the grid” experienced a heart attack while fetching water on October 8, and his body was found and eaten by a black bear taking shelter nearby. Marion Lee Williams, a 65-year-old man, lived in a trailer in the community of Briceland in Humboldt County and was reportedly checking on his water supplies when he experienced cardiac arrest near where the bear made its home, said Humboldt County Deputy Coroner Roy Horton.
Authorities believe that the bear had come across Williams’ body and treated it the way it would any food source: drag the body to its cave to eat. Investigators were reportedly able to identify Williams using his fingerprints, dentures and pieces of clothing after the bear had eaten most of his body.
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“The bear saw the opportunity for a food source and took advantage of it,” Horton said. The bear supposedly stripped Williams of his clothes and necklace and fed on him for several days. “The bear did eat most of this guy. He was about 85 percent consumed,” added Horton.
After noticing that Williams seemed to be missing, his friends called the sheriff’s department on October 11. Williams’ friends also reportedly visited his property and could smell his decaying body.
California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Andrew Hughan said that authorities initially tried to capture the bear in order to euthanize it but called off the attempt because it was doubtful that the animal would stay in the area of Redway, where Williams’ residence is located.
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“The bear does not pose a public threat. It was just doing what bears do,” said Hughan. He added that there were no reported cases of black bears mauling people in California.
According to Horton, the bear was behaving naturally upon coming across Williams’ body, and black bears are usually timid, not aggressive.