Officials investigate possible 'animal attack' after woman's body found in Pitt Meadows field
The BC Conservation Officer Service says it is investigating a possible “animal attack” after a woman’s body was found in a blueberry field in Pitt Meadows.
RCMP said officers were called shortly after 12:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 15, after a female body was found in a field along Old Dewdney Trunk Road near McKechnie Road.
Officers said it "was not immediately apparent" how the woman died, so the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team was called in.
At the time, the conservation officer service was also brought in, as officials believed the woman's remains may have been moved or disturbed by an animal, possibly a black bear.
On Friday, the service posted on social media, saying:
“The Conservation Officer Service is urging the public to take precautions in the Pitt Meadows area where a woman’s body was found as they investigate the possibility of an animal attack.”
CTV News Vancouver reached out to the service for more information, but no one was available Saturday to speak.
CTV News spoke with an expert who trains others to investigate animal-involved human fatalities.
Stephanne Payne, co-ordinator of Wildlife Human Attack Response Training (WHART), says that in investigating situations like the one in Pitt Meadows, investigators would likely use genetic evidence.
“(Evidence may be) anything that we can get that may have human DNA on it, or it may have the offending animal’s DNA on it,” Payne said.
“Then that is sent for analysis so we can determine species and things like that.”
The DNA analysis, she said, can take anywhere from a few days to a number of weeks.
Those working nearby say they’ve had little information from officials. Judy Plater runs a fruit stand beside the property and says she was forced to close on Sunday while investigators were on scene. On Friday, conservation officers were also walking through the property.
“Officers were in and out of here a couple times,” Plater said. “Other than that, it’s all a big question mark. I don’t really know what happened down here last weekend.”
Plater said she had been working in the area since June and hasn’t seen any bears in her time there.
“I think I would be very, very nervous if I did,” she added.
RCMP were also unavailable to comment Saturday, but a post on social media confirmed the cause of the woman’s death is still under investigation. It will be determined by the BC Coroners Service.
Aug. 22: This article has been updated from a previous version to correct the role of WHART in the investigation. The group is not directly involved.