By Marc Thompson

PLACER COUNTY (CBS13) — Placer County Sheriff’s officials are in the process of identifying human remains found in a state recreation area.

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Sheriff’s investigators say hikers first discovered the body just after daylight Saturday beneath an outcrop of trees off Foresthill Road between upper and lower Lake Clementine Roads.

The body was not covered or buried, but badly decomposed into skeletal remains, leading investigators to believe it had been there for quite some time.

“It could be natural causes, it could be an accident or it could be foul play, but it will take some time to determine that through the investigation and through the autopsy,” said Lt. Andrew Scott with the Placer County Sheriff’s Office.

Lt. Scott says they’re still going over the remains, checking for remnants of clothing or distinguishing marks that will help them determine if it’s that of a male or female and make a positive identification.

The discovery was made inside the Auburn State Recreation Area, a popular spot for hikers, and mountain bikers like Suzanne Debono, who was surprised to hear the news.

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“It seems like a pretty safe area. It’s very popular, there’s always people on the trails, yeah that’s very shocking ” she said.

Debono says the terrain in the area can be pretty rugged in spots.

“There are some very dangerous spots, yeah. You could sustain a trauma. If you were here by yourself and you had a little head trauma and were unable to get help, absolutely “ she said.

Not to mention, other potential hazards.

“There’s a lot of mountain lions, although they’re kind of solitary, but nonetheless , she said.

Investigators are focused on the fact that the body was discovered just 200 yards from the roadway. They’re also checking missing person cases in the area.

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The remains will be sent to the coroner’s office for identification.