DECATUR -- A man found a bear paw in a park on Thanksgiving Day. He showed us the very spot he found it and the picture he took of it.
Troy Wetherholt likes to walk his dog around Steven's Creek Trail. But Thursday morning, little Zoie found something out of the ordinary.
"I looked down and saw kind of a gruesome piece of bone with meat shaped like a hand or something but I didn't know what it was at first," said Wetherholt.
He had no idea what it could be. But the Macon County Sheriff's Office confirmed it was a bear paw.
"You ever been eating ribs and it has the carcass of the meat and it has meat between the bones and stuff?" said Wetherholt. "It had some of that stuff still. It looked pretty fresh. I would say someone cleaned it within the week or so maybe."
The paw is the only part Wetherholt found but the grizzly sight was enough to make him call the police.
"What happens if it was related to a murder and someone had done something?" said Wetherholt. "That's why I called the authorities."
Investigators said there have only been a handful of wild bear sightings in Illinois in more than 100 years but Wetherholt isn't taking any chances. He hopes people will keep their eyes peeled for anything else that looks out of place in the park.
"And if you see anything, don't be scared to show it or report it to authorities," said Wetherholt. "That way we can keep it safe for everyone else."
Wetherholt said his best guess is that a hunter may have been cleaning the bear and another animal snatched it up and took it to the park. The DNR is investigating where the paw came from. Investigators said a stray bear could have wandered in from a nearby state.
Original: 4:56 pm, 11/24/12, Saturday
DECATUR -- People are on alert after a jogger found a bear's paw near a bike path. It was found off Steven's Creek Trail near the corner of Hunt and Center streets on the city's west side.
But, authorities say this doesn't necessarily mean there are bears in the area. They say they don't know yet where the paw came from or how it got there.
The Macon County Sheriff's Office says it responded to a call on Thanksgiving morning about the body part. It belongs to a black bear and was found bloody and decaying. There have only been a handful of bear sightings in Illinois in more than 100 years. Runners along the trail say this is a complete shock.
The area near the path is heavily wooded. It is possible a stray bear could have wandered into the area from a nearby state. Authorities say they have not found any other traces of the bear. They also say people should not be worried about seeing one.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is analyzing the paw. It hopes to figure out where it came from.