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Two cats in Florida killed by coyote, not human

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Two cats originally thought to have been mutilated and killed by a person in Lakeland, Fla., were actually slayed by a coyote, according to the Lakeland Police Department.

The new conclusion is based on an expert analysis of genetic material collected from each cat’s body.

“Based on the DNA sequence obtained from each of the carcasses, the predator of these cats was a coyote,” AnnMarie Clark, a geneticist for the ASPCA-University of Florida Veterinary Forensic Sciences Program, wrote in a report to the department. “The test used is specific for canid species and can distinguish between domestic dog, coyote, fox and wolf.”

Jason Byrd, director of the forensics program, told Examiner.com June 9 that the DNA samples came from puncture wounds "that were likely the fatal injuries." Asked how it was determined that a coyote left its DNA by killing the cats and not by eating already dead cats, Byrd explained that "bite marks from an attack are different than what would be present with scavenging."

A third cat who also died under seemingly suspicious circumstances did not undergo a similar test because he or she had already been buried, police spokesman Sgt. Gary Gross said.

All three cats were found in a South Lakeland neighborhood from early March to late April. The belief that a human was responsible led to the offering of a $6,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

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