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Westmoreland humane society determines skinned animal was no dog

| Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

At first, officials from the Humane Society of Westmoreland County thought that the body of a skinned animal, dumped at an access road behind Lowe's in Hempfield last week, might be that of a greyhound.

Instead, it has been identified by a Salem taxidermist as a young coyote.

“I am 100 percent sure it is an average-size, 25- to 30-pound female,” said Kent Stryker, owner of World Class Animal Artistry on Route 119.

“There are so many coyotes,” he said. “I guarantee they are living everywhere, including within the city limits of Greensburg.”

Stryker, an instructor at the Pennsylvania Institute of Taxidermy in Ebensburg, said the remains had a distinctive smell indicating they were not canine. “For the most part coyotes are scavengers and eat dead stuff,” he explained.

The carcass “most resembled a young German shepherd, but the toe nails and pads were fully developed,” Stryker said.

Its ears and tail had been removed.

“I would not have pegged it to be a coyote. It took us all day to identify,” said Kathy Burkley, executive director of the humane society.

Initially state police were called to the scene to examine the remains, which were frozen to the ground.

Jan Dillon, an enforcement police officer for the humane society who later retrieved the remains, said they were “quite visible” on a cement pad at the edge of Marwood Forrest Road.

Officials thought they had a case of cruelty against a dog.

Wildlife Conservation Officer Matthew Lucas, with the Southwest Region of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, said he gets very few complaints about coyotes.

“There have been less than five complaints about coyotes in Hempfield and Greensburg in 2012,” Lucas said. “They are opportunistic and eat small mammals, including cats. People should keep their pets inside, especially in rural areas.”

Coyotes are present in the region, Lucas said, but they are shy and primarily nocturnal.

They move around a lot to find food, Lucas said, making it difficult to pinpoint an exact population for a particular area.

“It is illegal to leave a carcass just anywhere,” he added. “Most true sportsmen will dispose of the carcass properly.”

Trapping season for coyotes runs between Oct. 31 and Feb. 17.

Rose Domenick is a freelance writer.