A member of a Thomasville-area dog club found these bones while training his beagles Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of nycrpd.org)
A member of a Thomasville-area dog club found these bones while training his beagles Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of nycrpd.org)

Bryan Grove's beagles ran past the remains without breaking stride. The hounds were already on a scent, unconcerned with what appeared to be a child's foot, left in the middle of a mown path at the York & Adams Beagle Club.

Grove had a different reaction.

"I just looked at it and was thinking, 'What has five toes?' The only thing I could come up with was a bear or a human," he said. "It was definitely sawed off above the ankle."

And sawed off quite cleanly, according to Northern York County Regional Police.

But bears have impressive claws, unlike the dried-up bunch of bones being scrutinized by the 53-year-old club member. He found them about 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, police said.

Police said someone cleanly sawed through the leg bones of the bear. (Photo by Liz Evans Scolforo)
Police said someone cleanly sawed through the leg bones of the bear. (Photo by Liz Evans Scolforo)

"I came to the idea it was probably from a bear," Grove said.

Still, the whole business bothered Grove enough that he put the remains in a shed and left the club property, located along Orchard Road in Paradise Township.

He went home, where he asked his stepdaughter to poke around on the Internet and find him examples of the skeletal structures of human feet and bear paws, thinking that would alleviate his concerns. It didn't.

"They're awful close, really," Grove said. "I just wasn't real sure. I thought, 'Man, if this is somebody's kid....' I said, 'I've got to have someone check it out.'"

He went back to the club and called police.


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Police arrive: Northern Regional Police Lt. David Lash said an officer was dispatched to the York & Adams Beagle Club shortly after 1 p.m. Wednesday. The patrolman texted a photo of the remains to his superiors. It wasn't long before Northern Regional's command staff arrived at the club, Lash said.

A search of the area uncovered no other bones, the lieutenant said, and police concluded an animal likely dragged the foot/paw to the path.

"Something just didn't look right about it — the anatomy just didn't look quite right (to be human)," Lash said, but no one could be sure.

Police summoned York County Chief Deputy Coroner Claude Stabley — who's also a retired cop and a registered nurse — to the scene.

"I had my suspicions that it probably wasn't human, because of the size," Stabley said. "The shape is almost identical to humans, but the size would have meant we had a child (victim) or a very small adult. ... But of course, I'm not going to make that call."

Expert opinion: Stabley placed a ruler next to the foot for scale, took a photo and texted to a forensic pathologist at Mercyhurst University in Erie, he said.

Dr. Dennis Dirkmaat was able to give Stabley, Grove and Lash the answer they wanted to hear.

"It was a bear paw," Lash said, with its claws removed.

"I am just ecstatic it wasn't human," Stabley said. "This is what I suspect happened: Some hunter shot a bear and took it either for mounting or butchering, and cut off the pieces they weren't going to use. ... It's very possible a scavenger animal picked (the paw) up and carried it to the location where it was found."

Lash said poaching can't be ruled out, so police notified the state Game Commission.

Grove did the right thing in calling police, Lash said.

Stabley said it's not particularly uncommon for the county coroner's office to get calls about found bones that appear human.

"This is my fourth case in about two months," he said. The other three cases turned out to be animal bones as well, Stabley said.