Expert called in for Maple Ridge cat mutilations

Cautions against jumping to conclusions that human is responsible.

Buttercup was one of the cats recently found dead.

Buttercup was one of the cats recently found dead.

A U.S. expert in animal forensics is assisting the B.C. SPCA with their investigation into the spate of cat mutilations in Maple Ridge.

Dr. Melinda Merck, a renowned animal crime scene specialist from Atlanta, investigated the Whistler sled dog killings and helped build a case against NFL player Michael Vick for his involvement in a dog-fighting ring.

She frequently testifies as a forensic expert for animal cruelty cases around the U.S.

Merck is currently advising the SPCA via phone, but will most likely travel to Canada to view the remains of mutilated 24 cats that have been discovered around Maple Ridge.

“What I’m going to be looking for is whether there is evidence of a predator attack versus humans,” said Merck, who also trains veterinary and law enforcement professionals to gather evidence in animal cruelty cases.

Merck will re-evaluate investigation reports and review crime scene photographs, but also look for DNA from a predator or human in the cats’ mouths and on their claws.

But determining if a cat died in the jaws of a coyote or if it was sawed in half by a human isn’t easy.

Merck is among several people being sued by Tyler Weinman, a Florida man who was charged with killing 19 cats in 2009.

Prosecutors eventually abandoned their case against Weinman when it was scientifically determined at least eight of the cats were actually killed by dogs. The bodies of the other 11 were destroyed and couldn’t be properly tested.

Merck did not examine all the bodies herself, but agreed with the findings of another investigator, who determined the cats were killed by a human being.

“The examinations were actually done by local veterinarians and they had missed some of the signs,”‘ Merck explains.

“It is easy to do that without experience or guidance. Unfortunately, not all of [the bodies] were available to be re-examined.”

The Miami case means Merck will be especially cautious when examining the evidence from Maple Ridge.

The B.C. SPCA, however, believes many of the cats were sliced by a saw or knife.

Maple Ridge vet Dr. Adrian Walton looked at several carcasses in March and told the SPCA to order full necropsies on the animals after he noticed clean cuts on their bones.

Also, in at least one instance, the collar of a cat was placed neatly beside its severed head on the owner’s lawn.

Merck, though, counsels against jumping to conclusions.

“Is it a pattern from a person or a pattern from predators?” said Merck, noting that finding animal body parts is not an uncommon thing.

“It’s not easy to tell.”

Merck recommends that anyone who finds a cat head or body part to secure the scene until the SPCA or police can collect the evidence.

“Don’t let anybody touch anything until they get there,” she said.

“Everything is critical and should be left as it was found for the evidence to be properly analysed, just like a human crime scene.”

For now, Merck recommends Maple Ridge residents keep their pets inside and report any suspicious activity in their neighbourhood to police.

“As with most crimes, someone knows something and if they call the authorities that’s how most cases are solved.”

In the past year, a total of 24 dismembered cats have been found in Maple Ridge, mostly in an area between 217th and 230th streets.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A small memorial to Rich Goulet was started at Pitt Meadows Secondary after his recent death. (Neil Corbett/The News)
LETTER: Rename Pitt Meadows school gym in coach’s honour

Rich Goulet was considered one of the provinces best basketball coaches and died recently

Doug Nolin, a Maple Ridge senior, snapped this picture of his pet pigeons taking flight down by the old Albion ferry dock. “What a beautiful land we live in,” he said. (Special to The News)
SHARE: Chirp, chirp: Ridge senior captures pigeons taking flight

Send us your photo showing how you view Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, and it could be featured soon.

Pamela Franklin captured this picture of a raccoon in Maple Ridge, “chilling” in her backyard, on her storage bin. (Special to The News)
SHARE: Lounging in the spring sun

Send us your photo showing how you view Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, and it could be featured soon.

Debbie Noseworthy snapped a sunset picture the first day of daylight savings as seen from the dikes off 216th Street in Maple Ridge. (Special to The News)
SHARE: Sky on fire over Maple Ridge dikes

Send us your photo showing how you view Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, and it could be featured soon.

Darlene Martin captured this ‘breathtaking’ view of a sunset and the Fraser River as taken from Osprey Village. (Special to The News)
SHARE: View from Osprey Village breathtaking

Send us your photo showing how you view Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, and it could be featured soon.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

FILE - An arena worker removes the net from the ice after the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames NHL hockey game was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test result, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in this Wednesday, March 31, 2021, file photo. As vaccinations ramp up past a pace of 3 million a day in the U.S, the NHL is in a tougher spot than the other three major North American professional sports leagues because seven of 31 teams are based on Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
Vancouver Canucks scheduled to practice Sunday, resume games April 16 after COVID outbreak

Canucks outbreak delayed the team’s season by eight games

Most Read