But the mystery deepened because the rest of the skeleton was never found, and no one of that description had been reported missing. Finally the hand was sent to the state forensics lab, where it was determined to be a bear paw.
In 2011, a man in Queens, N.Y., found what appeared to be the foot of a young child in a back yard. The police were called, and parents kept their children close, fearing that someone had snatched, murdered and dismembered a child. Finally, a forensic anthropologist in the New York City medical examiner's office examined the foot and identified it as a bear paw.
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Though television police shows like CSI often make it look like identifying human from animal bones is easy, in reality it can be very difficult.
In his book "Practical Homicide Investigation: Tactics, Procedures, and Forensic Techniques," veteran homicide detective Vernon Geberth notes that "Practically speaking, law enforcement personnel should consider all pieces of skeleton human until experts determine otherwise. For example, parts of bear paws are misidentified more often as human than any other animal. In addition, many animal skeletons lacking the telltale skull have been thought to be those of a small child."