Severed Foot Believed to Belong to Child Actually From Baby Bear

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Tests on a foot believed to be from a child determined it actually was from a young bear, police said Thursday to end a mystery that prompted searches and worries in a northwest Alabama town.

Authorities spent two days searching for possible human remains after a dog showed up at home late Saturday with what appeared to be the severed foot of a young child. Officials feared a child had been killed and left in the woods.

But Police Chief Chris Hargett said forensics tests confirmed the object was most likely the paw of a young bear. He said the paw was similar enough to a human foot to fool an orthopedic surgeon who examined it and believed it belonged to a youngster.

"The great thing is it's not a child," he said. "The most unusual thing is that we've never heard of bears being in Russellville."

Russellville, with about 9,000 residents, is located in a heavily wooded, hilly corner of Alabama. Teams using cadaver-sniffing dogs searched for human remains for two days without finding anything.

"We've either got a three-legged bear wandering around or a dead one in the woods somewhere," Hargett said.