Coyotes, not humans, to blame for S.W. cat deaths, Calgary police say

File photo of a coyote in Calgary

Residents in the Haysboro neighbourhood feared for the safety of their pets after a group of cats was found dead in front of a residence at the end of July.

Since then, dozens of social media posts from neighbourhoods across the city’s southwest painted a ghastly picture of cats not only being killed but, in some cases, their bodies found in two or more pieces.

But following an investigation, the culprits have been identified as coyotes who can be known to kill in a “clean cut, surgical” manner, a spokesperson with the Calgary Police Service said Monday.

An investigator initially looked into the issue in July and determined that coyotes were responsible for multiple cat deaths. CPS said one of the cat carcasses will undergo a forensic analysis but investigators are “very certain” the deaths are the result of coyotes.

Last month, a Haysboro teen let her 11-year-old cat, Stuart, outside in the morning, as she usually does, expecting him to return home a few hours later.

As the day went on with no sign of Stuart, the girl’s mother took to social media.

 Police say an investigation has revealed Mary Ransom’s cat Stuart was killed by coyotes in Haysboro at the end of July.

“We just hadn’t seen him so my mom left a post on our Haysboro Facebook, and the lady who owns the house on the street where the cats have been dumped reached out to her and said ‘I think we found your cat,’ ” she said.

When her mom got there, the owner of the house said the cat had also been killed and left in front of her house a couple of weeks earlier.

“He was bisected,” the teen said, adding six cats in total had been found in front of the woman’s house.

“There were no puncture wounds, no nothing,” she said. “He was the kind of cat that would put up a fight . . . but he was completely fine from what was left of his body.”

She said social media pages and groups in her neighbourhood have been flooded with missing-cat posts.

“It’s a crazy amount of missing cats compared to what you would say is normal.”

Colleen St. Clair, U of A professor and co-author of a 2017 report called

A Forensic Pathology Investigation of Dismembered Domestic Cats: Coyotes or Cults

, said though it might seem odd, it’s not at all uncommon for coyote kills to appear like clean cuts done by knives, especially on cats.

“The description provided is not inconsistent with coyotes being the culprits here,” St. Clair said. “Quite a large part of our sample was bisected like that, too, and that’s because cats have a very weak junction in their vertebral column.”

St. Clair and co-author Nick Nation looked at 50 cat carcasses for the study during a time when countless domestic cats were showing up dead, dismembered and bisected in Edmonton and St. Albert.

“What Nick found in a lot of these carcasses under the skin was evidence of these traumatic puncture wounds that are hard to see without detailed examination,” she said, adding many times the edge of skin visible is “perfectly clean, like it was cut with a scalpel.”

“No one needs to feel any embarrassment about coming to that conclusion with certainty because lots of people have come to that same conclusion.”

At this time of year, St. Clair said coyotes are teaching their pups to hunt and might target cats for that exercise. She added, and the report found, that coyotes might leave caught prey in an area they plan to come back to later.

CPS added it’s still important for people to report incidents so police can determine the cause.

“We always encourage people to report anything that does seem unusual,” CPS said. “It’s totally understandable that seeing something like this could be traumatic for people and would definitely warrant a police report so we could determine if there was any foul play.”

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