Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Is It Really A Black Bear Paw?

OK...calling on the 'crypto conspiracy theorists.' What do you believe this is? Found in Thomasville, PA in York County (South Central PA). There is no black bear population in the area. Maybe a hunter took it from a kill and used it for training their dogs? No DNA tests have been performed...a photo was sent to a forensic pathologist, who states that it is a bear paw. I'm not making any determination in either direction...just thought it was interesting enough to present to the readers.

THOMASVILLE -- Last Wednesday, a man reported finding skeletal remains on Orchard Road at the York/Adams Beagle Club. Those remains looked similar to a human foot, but the person who found them was unsure. Northern York County Regional Police responded, along with the Coroner’s Office. Photographers of the remains were sent to a forensic pathologist at Mercyhurst College in Erie. The pathologist determined that the remains were that of a bear, not a human. At this time it is unknown how the bear paw got there. Police have closed their investigation into the found paw. - local21news

Police: No foul play afoot with bones found at Thomasville-area dog club

Bryan Grove's beagles ran past the remains without breaking stride. The hounds were already on a scent, unconcerned with what appeared to be a child's foot, left in the middle of a mown path at the York & Adams Beagle Club.

Grove had a different reaction.

"I just looked at it and was thinking, 'What has five toes?' The only thing I could come up with was a bear or a human," he said. "It was definitely sawed off above the ankle."

And sawed off quite cleanly, according to Northern York County Regional Police.

But bears have impressive claws, unlike the dried-up bunch of bones being scrutinized by the 53-year-old club member. He found them about 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, police said.

"I came to the idea it was probably from a bear," Grove said.

Still, the whole business bothered Grove enough that he put the remains in a shed and left the club property, located along Orchard Road in Paradise Township.

He went home, where he asked his stepdaughter to poke around on the Internet and find him examples of the skeletal structures of human feet and bear paws, thinking that would alleviate his concerns. It didn't.

"They're awful close, really," Grove said. "I just wasn't real sure. I thought, 'Man, if this is somebody's kid....' I said, 'I've got to have someone check it out.'"

He went back to the club and called police.

Police arrive: Northern Regional Police Lt. David Lash said an officer was dispatched to the York & Adams Beagle Club shortly after 1 p.m. Wednesday. The patrolman texted a photo of the remains to his superiors. It wasn't long before Northern Regional's command staff arrived at the club, Lash said.

A search of the area uncovered no other bones, the lieutenant said, and police concluded an animal likely dragged the foot/paw to the path.

"Something just didn't look right about it — the anatomy just didn't look quite right (to be human)," Lash said, but no one could be sure.

Police summoned York County Chief Deputy Coroner Claude Stabley — who's also a retired cop and a registered nurse — to the scene.

"I had my suspicions that it probably wasn't human, because of the size," Stabley said. "The shape is almost identical to humans, but the size would have meant we had a child (victim) or a very small adult. ... But of course, I'm not going to make that call."

Expert opinion: Stabley placed a ruler next to the foot for scale, took a photo and texted to a forensic pathologist at Mercyhurst University in Erie, he said.

Dr. Dennis Dirkmaat was able to give Stabley, Grove and Lash the answer they wanted to hear.

"It was a bear paw," Lash said, with its claws removed.

"I am just ecstatic it wasn't human," Stabley said. "This is what I suspect happened: Some hunter shot a bear and took it either for mounting or butchering, and cut off the pieces they weren't going to use. ... It's very possible a scavenger animal picked (the paw) up and carried it to the location where it was found."

Lash said poaching can't be ruled out, so police notified the state Game Commission.

Grove did the right thing in calling police, Lash said.

Stabley said it's not particularly uncommon for the county coroner's office to get calls about found bones that appear human.

"This is my fourth case in about two months," he said. The other three cases turned out to be animal bones as well, Stabley said. - York Dispatch


Forensic comparison between bear hind paw and human feet

Black Bear: North America's Bear

Black Bears: A Natural History

The Black Bear of Pennsylvania

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