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Black Bear Cub Mysteriously Found Dead in Central Park

Oct 07, 2014 05:27 PM EDT

A black bear cub was mysteriously found dead in Manhattan's Central Park on Monday, according to local reports.

All sorts of animals are found in this New York City oasis, such as your typical birds, bats and squirrels, but bears haven't been seen in this area for more than 400 years, according to ABC News.

"I work in this zone and we've never found a bear cub," Marianne Sponholz, a 63-year-old volunteer with the Central Park Conservancy, told The Wall Street Journal.

This 3-foot-long female bear cub was discovered by a dog walker, who at first mistook it for a dead raccoon. Upon realizing what is was, Florence Slatkin, 79, alerted a Central Park Conservancy worker, police said.

Officials still aren't sure exactly how this black bear, a species found throughout North America, wound up in the heart of the most populated city in the United States, but lacerations on its side indicate that there may have been a struggle. Police are to perform a necropsy to determine the cause of death.

"The news that a dead black bear cub was found in Central Park is beyond upsetting," Elizabeth Kaledin, a spokeswoman for the Conservancy, told ABC News in a statement. "Whenever any wildlife is harmed or injured we at the Conservancy are upset and alarmed. Black bears are not native to Central Park and there are no black bears kept at the Central Park Zoo so this is a highly unusual situation."

The New York Police Department's animal cruelty investigation squad responded to the scene to find the cub partially hidden by an abandoned bicycle. Hopefully the necropsy will tell officials how the bear got to the park, and whether it was alive or already dead at the time. Police suspect the cub may have been killed somewhere else and then dumped in the park, but the investigation is ongoing.

According to Defenders of Wildlife, there are at least 600,000 black bears in North America, over 300,000 individuals in the United States alone. Black bears are extremely adaptable and can live in various habitat types, though they are primarily found in forested areas with thick ground vegetation and an abundance of fruits, nuts, and vegetation.

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