This Bear Was Framed

You've committed a murder, and quite reasonably wish to get off scot-free. You might try hiding the body or use a Frameup to beat the rap, but if your inclination is to Make It Look Like an Accident, why not simply make it look like an animal attack? The accused animal is unlikely to put up a legal defense, and the typical bites and claw marks from such an encounter will cover up any pesky stab wounds, and will appear to be so open-and-shut a case that the authorities might not even bother testing for poisons or gunshot residue. Or better yet, why not make the crime seamless by using an actual animal to commit the murder?

The catch is that some animal lover (or unusually perceptive detective) may come along and try to Clear His Name. Compare Animal Assassin and Fed to the Beast, where the killer uses an animal as a weapon to kill the victim, and Hunting "Accident", which can overlap.


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    Comic Books 
  • The Dresden Files graphic novel Welcome To The Jungle starts with a zoo security guard being found dead outside the gorilla pen, with blood on one of the gorillas. Finding it odd that a murderous animal would, after breaking out of its pen and killing a man, then proceed to go back into its cage and re-secure the doors, Murphy calls in Dresden to figure out what really happened.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Victory At Ostagar: Aron Kendalls, leading candidate for the next Arl of Denerim, suffers a convenient Hunting "Accident" which goes unsuspected thanks to the lack of a Fereldan forensics department.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Advocate is a film based on a lawyer in Medieval France who defends a pig for killing a child. It's based on some real trials of animals that occurred during that time period. Yes, the pig was framed.
  • The Val Lewton film The Leopard Man features a serial killer who disguises his crimes as attacks from an escaped leopard. He's aided by the fact that the escaped leopard really did kill someone.
  • Shark Attack: The bad guys murder a researcher who was digging up too much information on them by throwing him into a lake with a bunch of hungry sharks.

  • Inverted in the short story "Never Forget" by Tom Holt. During the Punic Wars, a highly unpopular Roman officer is found with his skull smashed in, and his personal and business enemies are heavily investigated. The investigator, being The Mole, accuses the general's most competent advisor. The actual killer, of course, is a captured elephant that was wounded by the victim in battle.
  • In The Saint short story "The Convenient Monster", a murderer kills his victim with a Polynesian club studded with shark teeth and attempts to place the blame on the Loch Ness Monster!
  • In Some Buried Caesar, a man is apparently gored by a prize bull his owner intended to slaughter and cook and the victim was trying to free. Nero Wolfe doesn't accept this conclusion.
  • Inverted in the short Edgar Allan Poe story "The Murders in the Rue Morgue'' where in a plot twist the killer turns out to be an escaped orangutan.
  • Ben Snow:
    • In "Banner of Blood", the murderers smash in a man's head with an axe handle, and then use a cattle stampede to make it look like an accident.
    • In "The Phantom Stallion", the murder bludgeons the victim with a horseshoe nailed to a piece of wood to make it look like he was killed by a ghost horse (It Makes Sense in Context).
  • Inverted in the Sherlock Holmes story "The Veiled Lodger". A woman planned to murder her abusive husband and run with her lover by making it look as though their circus lion killed him, using a nailed club to look like a lion's paw. Unfortunately, after killing him and tossing the body in the cage, the lion leaps out and starts mauling her.
  • Animorphs: When David (in lion morph) leaves Jake (in tiger morph) half-dead, the Gardens' vet team gets called in, with the vet noting that if she didn't know better, the tiger's wounds were caused by another big cat. There is some confusion later when Jake demorphs out of sight, leaving the vets confused as to why the tiger is not only back in its cage but completely unharmed.

    Live-Action TV 
  • This is a somewhat regular thing on the Trope Namer, Psych, where it seems like once every few seasons there is an episode where an animal is falsely accused of being "the killer" and in danger of being "put down" for it (in one it was a panther, another the trope-naming polar bear, and in still another a shark), but the series sleuths uncover evidence that a person did the killing and then covered it up by making it look like a death by animal attack.
    • Played with in one episode; Shawn realizes that the wounds on a victim would indicate a T-Rex did it, but everyone thinks he's crazy for thinking so. It turns out, it looks like a T-Rex did it because one did. That is, a T-Rex skull caused the death; there was still a person involved.
  • Monk:
    • "Mr. Monk and the Panic Room": A monkey is framed for murder. It is then up to Monk to figure out how.
    • Another example is an episode where a dog had apparently mauled a woman to death. The bite marks on the woman's body matched the dog's teeth exactly, but the owner claimed the dog had died before the apparent attack.
  • In an episode of New Tricks a man broke into a zoo and was assumed to have fallen into a tiger enclosure and mauled to death by the tiger. When the tiger dies a few years later it is revealed that its death was caused by a piece of a knife that was stuck in its body since that night. The team reopens the case and finds that the man was killed elsewhere and the body dumped in the tiger cage which is when th tiger was stabbed. Not only was the tiger framed but it was also another victim.
  • In one CSI episode, a woman (who was eating human organs to fight off a rare disease) used dogs to attack her victims, so that the deaths at first simply looked like dog attacks.
    • In another, a shark got released into a pool and attacked someone, but the shark attack was not the cause of death; the victim was already dead (of a forced heroin overdose) and the shark was drawn to blood from her injection site and bit her arm off. The shark release and the murder were actually committed by different people, so less "this shark was framed" and more "this shark was in the wrong place at the wrong time".
  • The Columbo episode "A Matter of Honor" has one of these, where Columbo is stuck on a Busman's Holiday in Mexico. The perp is a bullfighter (played by Ricardo Montalban) who kills his victim by trapping him in the arena with a notoriously vicious bull.
    • It's not the first time this was used - a killer trained a pack of dogs to attack on command when they hear the word 'Rosebud' then convinced his victim to say the word and claimed they were always vicious animals to cover up his crime. Columbo was onto him because he found this out after he had previously met the dogs himself (when they're not given the codeword, they're actually pretty sweet).
  • A dog is framed in the pilot of Pushing Daisies. The cause of death was in fact being mauled, but it was done by a dog of a different breed on orders from its owner.
  • An episode of Midsomer Murders has a killer use a saber tooth tiger skull to make marks on the body to hide the real cause of death.
  • NCIS:
    • Happens in an episode, with a serial killer masking his murders in a natural park as accidents — including a grizzly attack. The bear sure did partially eat the corpse, but during the autopsy Ducky finds a stab wound in the heart that is too neat to have been done by bear claws.
    • In another episode "Dog Tags", Abby clears the name of a German Shepherd she has named Jethro.
  • Happens more than once in Supernatural when a murder committed by an animalistic supernatural being like a wendigo or a werewolf is written off as a bear attack by the police.
    Officer: This kid was shredded by an animal.
  • The Doctor Blake Mysteries: In "My Brother's Keeper", the killer clubs the Victim of the Week over the head, dumps his body in a cattle pen, and then stampedes the cattle so the trample the body to conceal his wounds.
  • On Longmire a victim is drugged, covered in meat and staked out in a remote area that is known to be part of a bear's hunting grounds. The bear tears the victim to pieces but Longmire quickly figures out that the bear was set up since he finds a piece of meat that is not human and was cut with a knife.
  • Castle: In "The Fast and the Furriest", evidence at a crime scene suggests that a murderous Bigfoot is stalking the streets of New York City. Castle is only too willing to believe that a Bigfoot is the culprit, but Beckett, Ryan and Esposito are convinced the murderer is more mundane. They are, of course, correct.
  • Murdoch Mysteries:
    • In "Child's Play", the Victim of the Week is murdered by a blow to the head with a shovel. Horses are then stampeded over the body to make it look like he was trampled to death.
    • In "Werewolves", the killer wears a glove with a spring-loaded trap studded with wolf teeth to rip out the victims' throats, making it look like a wolf attack.
    • In "Blood and Cicuses"", the circus's lion tamer had her throat cut before her body was mauled by a starving tiger in an attempt to make it look like she was killed by the tiger.
  • Inverted in the "Beast of Bray Road" episode of Lost Tapes: a Wisconsin militia insist throughout the episode that whatever is killing their fighters must be one or more federal agents, but it really is an animal killing them. One of the reporters interviewing them comments right off the bat that the episode's first victim looks more like he was mauled by an animal, but the militia leader insists that a federal agent could use a government-issue combat knife to make it look like an animal attack.
    • There are a few variations in some other episodes, mostly by authorities attributing the deaths or injuries of various characters to mundane animals rather than cryptids, like the deaths of three hunters who are killed by the Fouke Monster are attributed to bear attacks.
  • Murder, She Wrote:
    • Combined with Scooby-Doo Hoax in "Night of the Tarantula" where the murderer strangles the victim of the week and tries to make it look like the work of boa constrictor , which was sent to him as part of a voodoo curse.
    • In "A Nest of Vipers", the Victim of the Week is injected with black mamba venom. The killer then unlocks the black mamba's cage so it will look like the victim was bitten by the escaped snake.
  • The Coroner: In "The Beast of Lighthaven", the Victim of the Week is a reporter obsessed with proving true local legends of 'the Beast of Lighthaven'; a big cat that is supposed to stalk the moors. He is found dead on the moors with his throat ripped out and what looks like wounds from a big cat.

    Myths & Religion 
  • In The Bible story of Joseph and the coat of many colors, Joseph's jealous brothers sell Joseph into slavery to passing traders; to cover up this crime, they smear goat's blood on Joseph's robe and show it to their father, claiming it is the result of an animal attack.
    • Notably, Joseph's brothers were originally intending to kill him; but Reuben managed to convince his brothers to settle for selling him.

    Tabletop Games 
  • World of Darkness residents like using this trope as many factions have a habit of killing people in outrageous ways that would threaten The Masquerade if they were considered murders rather than freak accidents and animal attacks - a murderer who tears their victim's throat out with their sharp canines might be considered a little unusual.

    Video Games 

    Western Animation 


    Real Life 
  • The famous Australian case of Azaria Chamberlain, an infant who disappeared in the desert during a family outing. Her mother claimed, "a dingo ate my baby"; the authorities invoked this trope and the mother was convicted of murder, but the conviction was later reversed. More modern scientific analysis of the evidence available, while inconclusive, supports the mother's version of events.