Cat owners can relax, as the BC SPCA and police now believe there is no crazed cat killer on the loose in Langley and Maple Ridge.
A series of forensic veterinary examinations by Dr. Melinda Merck was done, and revealed that 20 cats killed in recent weeks were the victim of predator attacks.
Another eight birds, one rabbit, and one dog were also examined.
In five cases, a conclusive cause of death could not be determined because the pieces of the animals recovered were just a leg or tail, but those parts also showed evidence of being eaten by another animal.
Human involvement had been suspected due to initial findings from pathologists and other vets, which suggested that the animals had been cut in half in some cases.
“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,” said Marcie Moriarty, general manager of cruelty investigations for the BC SPCA.
The string of pet deaths has kept residents in parts of Maple Ridge, and Langley’s South Brookswood area on edge. An early series of cat deaths was reported in Langley two years ago, and a recent string in Maple Ridge had alarmed locals.
Merck is an internationally recognized expert, who also looked into the killing of sled dogs in Whistler in 2011.
Merck said attacks by predators can appear similar to cuts 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,” Merck said.
She added that it is not unusual for a coyote to grab a cat in the middle and run off with just half of the animal.
That would explain the apparently sliced-in-half animals found on local lawns.
DNA experts at SFU are currently working the the BC SPCA to confirm if the predators involved were coyotes or some other animal.
BC Conservation officers have also been alerted, Moriarty said.
While the attacks do not seem to have been caused by humans, the SPCA is still urging residents in the affected areas to keep their pets inside. The coyotes or other predators will have learned that cats are a potential food source, and keeping them inside is the only sure way to keep pets safe.