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This Bear Was Framed

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You've committed a murder, and quite reasonably wish to get off scot-free. You might try hiding the body or use a Frame-Up 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.

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 actually uses the animal as a weapon to kill the victim, and Hunting "Accident" and Obfuscating Postmortem Wounds , which can overlap. See also Fed to Pigs, when the killer lets animals make a meal of the corpse to dispose of it.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Case Closed: A old lady winds up dead with bite marks on her neck and is found near a dog with blood on his mouth. Conan deduces that the real killer is the lady's daughter-in-law who used a clay model of the dog's muzzle to puncture the victim's neck. The blood on the dog's mouth was from licking the wound in an attempt to ease the bleeding. The daughter-in-law confesses the crime and claims she was tired of being criticized constantly by her mother-in-law, who wished that his son had married a better woman.
  • Golden Kamuy: In a flashback, First Lieutenant Tsurumi covered for a young Tokishige Usami after he murdered his friend out of jealousy, claiming the victim was kicked in the throat by his horse. The horse was killed and Tsurumi was reassigned to Hokkaido for his neglect, but Usami got off scot-free.
  • The Kindaichi Case Files: In the Murder in the Forest of the Demon Dog case, people are trapped in a building surrounded by rabid dogs led by a genetically modified giant dog called Cerberus. Several people are found dead covered in claw marks. Cerberus doesn't actually exist and all evidence of his existence was fabricated by the culprit. Furthermore, the existing dogs aren't actually rabid but are being controlled by the culprit who trained them. All the murders were personally done by the culprit.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman/Superman: World's Finest #6 opens In Medias Res with Robin at a circus insisting that the lion is not responsible for a recent death, he just needs time to figure out who is. It turns out to be the animal trainer, whose sorrow at having to put the lion down is entirely feigned.
  • 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. It turns out that a hag was taking blood from the gorilla for a magic ritual, and killed the guard when he saw her. In a case of Karmic Death, the hag ends up being killed by the gorilla at the end.
  • In The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones #31, a gang of collaborators use the local legend of a Bigfoot to scare locals away from where they meet a Japanese submarine. Anyone who gets too close is killed with a barbed cat-o'-nine-tails that makes it look as if they were shredded by huge claws.
  • In "Widowmaker" in Jon Sable, Freelance #21, Jon pursues a woman known as "the White Widow" who tried to murder her husband (an old friend of Jon's) and claim he was kicked in the head by a horse; but, the police found a bloody horseshoe under the seat of her car. She was convicted, but is out on a $3.5 million dollar bond, while her case is under appeal.
  • In Rawhide Kid #94, a man called Ace Fenton dresses up in a grizzly bear costume in order to rob the Pony Express. After almost getting caught by Rawhide and the Two-Gun Kid, Fenton starts persuading the locals that Rawhide has been training bears to rob for him. The next stage of his plan involves breaking into the courtroom during Rawhide's trial and dragging him away so it will look like Rawhide and the grizzly are in cahoots. It Makes Just As Much Sense In Context.

    Fan Works 
  • 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 
  • In The Lion King (1994), Scar uses stampeding wildebeests to murder Mufasa — an odd example of an animal using other animals to make the murder of another animal look like an (accidental) animal attack.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The eponymous Dr. No employs a "dragon tank" to defend Crab Key which is deliberately painted to resemble one and even has a Flamethrower to prey upon superstitious locals' fears, with Honey Ryder outright telling James Bond that the island has a dragon on it.
  • After Queen Narissa from Enchanted transforms into a dragon, she says that she will blame the deaths of the protagonists on a "giant, vicious beast".
  • The Hour of the Pig (aka 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.
  • In Murders in the Zoo, Eric Gorman uses a fake snake head to inject green mamba venom into Hewitt, making it look like he has been bitten by a snake. He later tries to do the same thing to Jack Woodford.
  • In Romasanta: The Werewolf Hunt, Romasanta's murders are attributed to wolf attacks, until Professor Phillips conducts an autopsy and identifies that the slices on this corpse have been inflicted with surgical precision.
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • Anna Pigeon: In Track of the Cat, the first murder is made to appear to be the work of a mountain lion.
  • 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 murderer 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.)
  • In Wilbur Daniel Steele's short story "Blue Murder", the deaths of The Unfavorite's two brothers are framed as attacks by a feral stallion, with a horseshoe print left on their foreheads. (The true murderer is exposed when others discover that the horse has never been shot).
  • Forest Kingdom: In the Hawk & Fisher spinoff series' book 1, a case is mentioned where someone carried out murders with a stuffed bear paw attached to a club, making people think the deaths were just normal animal attacks.
  • The McGurk Organization story The Case of the Condemned Cat is a variation, being the matter of a client's cat being blamed for killing two pet doves. The culprit was a human who killed the doves by accident and set things up to look like a non-specific cat was the killer.
  • 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.
  • 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 A Series of Unfortunate Events book 2, The Reptile Room, Count Olaf injects snake venom into Uncle Monty with a needle, then lets the snakes out of their cages, making it look like one of the snakes bit him. Only the Baudelaires know the truth, that the snakes, even the Incredibly Deadly Viper are innocent and Olaf is responsible.
  • Sherlock Holmes:
    • Inverted in "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.
    • "Silver Blaze": Again, it's again inverted; after everyone believes that Silver Blaze, the titular champion racehorse, was stolen and the victim murdered in an attempt to prevent this, it turns out that Silver Blaze is actually the "murderer". However, it's technically self-defence, as the victim was planning to render Silver Blaze lame as part of a race-fixing scheme, only for the horse to get spooked and kick him in the head.
  • The Sherlock Holmes Stories of Edward D. Hoch:
    • In "Return of the Speckled Band", the killer injects snake venom into the victim using a pair of hypodermics tied together to simulate a snakebite.
    • In "The Adventure of Vittoria the Circus Belle", the killer stabs the eponymous Vittoria to death and then places the body in the tiger's cage to be mauled by the big cat. However, the body is not as badly damaged as the killer had hoped and, after a brief examination of the corpse, Dr. Watson is able to determine that the tiger could not have inflicted the fatal wound.
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On Blue Bloods, Frank becomes concerned when a canine officer is accused of biting a neighbor's child. Insisting on a more thorough investigation, he discovers that the neighbor's own recently-adopted dog was the culprit, and had been hidden with the child's grandparents so the father could sue the city for the alleged police dog attack.
  • 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.
  • Columbo:
    • The 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 Montalbán) who kills his victim by trapping him in the arena with a notoriously vicious bull after hitting said victim with drug darts to impair his ability to escape. The bullfighter even gives the disoriented victim a nice red cape to wave around.
    • 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).
  • 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.
  • CSI:
    • In one 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. She used the dogs because a gun or knife wouldn't be "natural"; the organs might be "contaminated".
    • 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 committed by different people, so less "this shark was framed" and more "this shark was in the wrong place at the wrong time".
    • A dog was suspected of mauling his police handler in a later episode, but the team proves the wounds don’t match. Nick ends up adopting the dog.
  • CSI: NY: Twice in season 2's "Zoo York". The first victim is eaten by a tiger but turns out he was already dead before being thrown into its enclosure. The second case had someone die of Brazilian wandering spider venom; this had the effect of framing not only the spiders but their human keeper as well. The killer was not the owner of the live spiders, but someone who had access to the venom in a lab.
  • 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.
  • Elementary: Sherlock is supposed to spend a few weeks in a remote cabin recuperating far from any crime-solving but cannot resist helping out the local authorities when a famous trapper is killed nearby. Most of the case is presented as a Noodle Incident, but we know that the culprit ends up being the trapper's wife who tried to frame an innocent bear for the crime.
  • Harrow: In "Aegri Somnia" ("Hallucinations"), Harrow and Grace conduct an autopsy of a ranger who appears to have died as a result of a shark attack. However, the true cause of death is Irukandji jellyfish stings. Harrow eventually determines that he was not stung after falling out of his boat, but by being force-fed the jellyfish.
  • 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.
  • Lost Tapes:
    • Inverted in the "Beast of Bray Road" episode: 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, albeit one not known to science. 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.
  • 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.
  • Monk:
    • "Mr. Monk and the Panic Room": A monkey is framed for murder. It is then up to Monk to figure out how, which is made more complicated by how Captain Stottlemeyer is able to prove that the monkey is intelligent enough to use the murder weapon midway through the episode.
    • 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.
    • A third example is mentioned in passing in "Mr. Monk goes to Mexico"; a tourist had apparently been killed in a lion attack a year before the similarly mysterious case in question (another tourist drowning in midair while skydiving). In truth, the murderer simply made the wounds look like a lion 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 the tiger was stabbed. Not only was the tiger framed but it was also another victim.
  • 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 a 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.
  • 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 Circuses", 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.
  • NCIS:
    • In one episode, a serial killer tries to disguise his murders in a natural park as accidents, including a sailor who appears to have been killed by a bear. 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, who was accused of attacking and killing his handler.
  • Probe's "Metamorphic Anthropoidic Prototype Over You": Early evidence in the case for Louise's murder has Josephine, an orangutan, as the only possible culprit. Naturally, animal rights activists try to free her from an animal impound.
  • Psych:
    • This is a somewhat regular thing on the Trope Namer series, 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 puma, 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 death by animal attack.
    • Played with in one episode; Shawn realizes that the wounds on a victim would indicate a T-Rex did it. Everyone thinks he's crazy at first, but then it turns out that the victim was a paleontologist. In the end, Shawn was right: the victim died of a T-Rex bite because someone pushed him onto a newly unearthed T-Rex skull.
    • Downplayed and inverted in the pilot, when Shawn and Gus come across the victim's dog, who runs up to Shawn playfully. Gus is alarmed by what looks like blood on its whiskers, but Shawn dismisses this as 'snausages'. It turns out it is blood, however; the dog angrily attacked the murderer after witnessing his master's murder, and the fact that the murderer is concealing the dog bites turns out to be a vital clue.
  • Pushing Daisies's "Pielette": The cause of death was mauling, and one dog is singled out as the primary suspect. However, it was actually done by a dog of a different breed on orders from its owner.
  • Supernatural:
    • Happens more than once 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.
    • "Heart": Nate's death is mistaken for an animal attack despite it occurring in a skyscraper in downtown San Francisco. The medical examiner thinks it looks like a wolf attack, but she plans to list it as a pit bull attack on her report.
    • "Bitten":
      Officer: This kid was shredded by an animal.
    • "Changing Channels": A sheriff attributes a murder in his town to a bear attack, because the truth is just too bizarre for him to take seriously: the victim's wife claims that he was beaten to death by The Incredible Hulk. This was caused by a reality-warping monster whose entire modus operandi consists of inflicting comical deaths.
  • The Twilight Zone: In "Red Snow", the Communist Party secretary Vladimir Borisov was killed by the vampires living in the Siberian gulag in order to protect the townspeople from his brutal excesses. Mayor Titov tells KGB Colonel Ilyanov that Borisov was torn apart by wolves but he later learns the truth.
  • A variant in Wishbone where the titular Jack Russell ended up blamed for a variety of incidents that were clearly caused by a dog given the paw prints and teeth marks found at the scenes, not to mention the garbage cans being knocked over, but when the main trio investigates, they discover that Wishbone couldn't have caused the problems because A) the paw prints and teeth marks were way too big to have come from Wishbone and B) he's too short to knock over the trashcans, not to mention that when they're full, they're too heavy for him to push. Ultimately they find the dog (a giant bloodhound, as befits a Whole-Plot Reference to The Hound of the Baskervilles) responsible and use the evidence they collected to clear Wishbone.

    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 themselves; but first Reuben convinced them to put Joseph in an old cistern to make his death look "natural" and so they wouldn't have his blood on their hands, and then when Reuben was away, Judah managed to convince his brothers to sell him to the traders.

    Tabletop Games 
  • World of Darkness:
    • The 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.
    • The eponymous characters of Werewolf: The Apocalypse have a love-hate-relationship with the trope. On the one hand, it's a convenient way to avert suspicion and protect the Veil. Use it too often and people might think about eradicating wolves and other wild animals, though...

    Video Games 
  • Players are known to use an odd variation of this in Dwarf Fortress. If there's a murder in a fort, the dwarves will get anxious until someone is punished for it — however, in many cases, the player also doesn't know who did it (or want no harm to fall on the guilty party), so they resort to two choices: either punish someone completely innocent or blame a dead animal. The game also doesn't check how long the animal has been dead — meaning this can be done to, say, a parrot or a mosquito that's been dead longer than the victim. Also Subverted, as sometimes dwarves don't believe your claims.
  • In Exit Fate, you are at one point asked to solve the murder of an Archdruid, whose body was seemingly savaged and eaten by wild animals — except the man's druid powers would have ensured that no animal could have attacked him, thus one of the other druids must have either killed him directly or somehow negated his protection. They're all innocent. The Archdruid died of natural causes, and his body was eaten because his powers left him upon death. He even intentionally placed himself where they could feed on him because he believed it was the natural thing to do.

    Visual Novels 
  • The premise of the DLC case of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies: the murder of an aquarium's owner is pinned on an orca. The owner actually slipped and fell to his death when trying to stop the "murderer" from killing the orca by draining her tank, since he blamed her for his girlfriend's death.

  • Zig-zagged in Paradigm Shift. A series of grisly killings in Chicago are initially taken to be animal attacks, but the protagonists quickly realise it's unlikely that a predator that size would be wandering around the city without being noticed and the forensics don't add up either, so their working hypothesis is that they're looking for a Serial Killer who's invoking this trope and going for a werewolf theme. It turns out that the killer really is a werewolf.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • In the Animated Adaptation of Ace Ventura, a villain of the week frames a gorilla.
  • In Solar Opposites, a series of murders of shrunken people in the Wall is covered up by two Wall government officials, who blame a cricket. After the real murderer is found and killed, the leader of the Wall adopts the "cricket" story as the official government line.

    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"; because of her Heroic BSoD being misinterpreted as unmoved by her child's death, plus her Seventh-Day Adventist faith (unusual and not well understood in Australia), the authorities invoked this trope and the mother was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. After the child's jacket was found in a dingo's cave, the conviction was reversed. More modern scientific analysis of the evidence available, while inconclusive, supports the mother's version of events. She and her husband were completely exonerated.
  • In 1763, Marie-Josephte Corriveau killed her husband with a hatchet while he was sleeping, then she and her father dragged his body into their barn and claimed that an angry horse had kicked him to death. Marie-Josephte was still convicted and hanged for the crime, though.