Police and wildlife officials are scratching their heads after finding a deceased black bear cub in New York City’s Central Park on Monday. The cub was discovered hidden underneath a bush by a passing dog walker who at first thought it was a raccoon. The carcass was later removed by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, yet officials still have no idea how the bear got into the park. Employees of the nearby zoo confirmed that all of the zoo’s bears were accounted for, and no wild bear has been seen in Manhattan since the 1600s.
“This is a highly unusual situation,” Elizabeth Kaledin, a spokeswoman for the Central Park Conservancy, told The New York Times. “It’s awful.”
Law enforcement officials suspect that the incident may be more than just unusual—it may be criminal as well. The case is currently under investigation by the New York Police Department’s Animal Cruelty Investigation Squad. It is believed the bear may have been killed elsewhere and later transported to the park.
New Yorkers walking through Central Park are more used to seeing the occasional dead mouse or bird, but a three-foot baby bear is much more conspicuous. Investigators are currently looking for answers as to why anybody would sneak the cub into the park. State law—as well as common sense—prohibits residents from keeping black bears as pets and the nearest wild population is far to the north, where about 8,000 black bears reside in upstate New York.