Mysterious Bear Cub Found Dead Inside Central Park

Bear Cub Found Dead in Central Park New York City
Bear cub

10/07/2014 AT 05:45 PM EDT

A bear cub has been found dead under a bush in Central Park, and authorities suspect animal cruelty played a role.

The cub was found Monday morning by two women walking their dogs. The women notified a Central Park Conservancy employee. There were signs of trauma to the cub's body, which authorities said may have been dumped there.

One of the women, Florence Slatkin, said she and a friend were leaving the park when her friend's terrier spotted something near a bicycle lying on the ground.

"At first, we thought it was a bag of clothes or maybe a dead dog," said Slatkin, a retired transit administrator who lives near the park.

Mysterious Bear Cub Found Dead Inside Central Park| Animals & Pets, Baby Animals

Florence Slatkin and her dog Paco

Richard Drew / AP

But then, as they got closer, they realized it was a very small bear "with its mouth wide open and scratches on the side."

The cub's head was on top of the back bicycle wheel, Slatkin said.

"It was terrible, and it was the strangest thing," she added. "Why was the bike there?"

Police later dusted the bicycle for prints.

Bears are not among the park's known wildlife population, and there are no bears at the Central Park Zoo. No bears were reported missing from other zoos.

The dead 3-foot-tall bear cub was being sent to Albany, where the state Department of Environmental Conservation was taking over the case and performing a necropsy on it. It was unclear what type of bear it was.

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