Coyotes, not humans likely behind cat mutilations - SPCA
Animals, not humans are behind two dozen cat mutilations in Langley and Maple Ridge, announced the BC SPCA on Friday morning.
The necropsies conducted by internationally known forensic veterinarian Dr. Melinda Merck on the remains of mutilated cats have determined the animals were victims of predator attacks. Initial findings from pathologists and veterinarians, combined with the unusual placement of the bodies, had raised concerns that these deaths had human involvement.
In total, Merck conducted necropsies on 30 animals found in recent weeks, including 20 cats, eight birds, one rabbit and one dog.
The SPCA says that while a conclusive cause of death could not be determined in five cases where only a tail or leg remained, these body parts also showed evidence of predation.
“The definitive cause-of-death results we do have, combined with additional evidence of predator attacks on isolated body parts, leads us to conclude that the animals were victims of coyotes or some other predator,” says Marcie Moriarty, general manager of cruelty investigations for the BC SPCA.
Moriarty said the SPCA could not initially rule out the possibility of human involvement because veterinary and pathology reports from 2011 and 2012 indicated that the animals had been severed using a sharp instrument.
“We worked closely with members of the Ridge Meadows and Langley RCMP detachments to explore every avenue in the investigation, including behavioural profiling and DNA testing,” says Moriarty. “The physical evidence in the case was crucial, however, and the BC SPCA was fortunate enough to engage the services of Dr. Melinda Merck."
At least four cats in the Brookswood area had been killed in a suspicious manner in the last two months and nine felines were killed in a two week span in Maple Ridge last month, prompting the SPCA and police to step up concern there was a cat killer out there.
Merck had assisted the BC SPCA with the Whistler sled dog investigation in 2011 and agreed to come to Vancouver this week to lend her expertise to this case.
Merck says the injuries can appear very similar to an attack by a sharp instrument because the tear is so precise.
“However, other factors, such as the nature and the angle of the skin tears and puncture marks and patterns left by canine molars in underlying skin tissue and bone, can provide more conclusive evidence.”
Coyotes are stealthy predators, usually attacking quickly and silently.
“It is not unusual for them to bite their prey in the middle and run off with half the body in their mouths, which would explain the number of cat bodies which were found in exact halves on lawns or in parks,” she said.
The BC SPCA is currently working with DNA experts at Simon Fraser University to confirm if the predators involved in the attacks were coyotes or some other animal. SPCA investigators have also alerted conservation officers regarding the necropsy findings.
While the necropsies have revealed evidence of predation, Moriarty says any new cases will continue to be examined fully for all possible causes of death, including human involvement.
"RCMP detachments in the Lower Mainland will continue to work with the BC SPCA on the few outstanding instances where human involvement in handling the bodies is suspected," says Insp. Dave Fleugel of Ridge Meadows RCMP and Insp. Steph Drolet of Langley RCMP.
"While the SPCA is the lead on cruelty to animal cases, the RCMP wishes to reassure the public that we will continue to share information with the SPCA, and that should any instances of other criminal behaviors be suspected, this behavior will be fully investigated."
Moriarty says the BC SPCA is strongly reiterating its warning to pet owners to keep all of their animals inside, particularly in the areas of Maple Ridge and Langley where the attacks have been focused.
“Predators will remain in areas where there is a food source and the only way to ensure your cat, dog or small animal’s safety is to keep them out of harm’s way.”