According to game officials, an English yew plant which is toxic to people and most animals is likely what killed a black bear and her three cubs after they were found dead on a church parking lot on December 6 in West Wyoming, Pennsylvania.
USA TODAY

Pennsylvania wildlife officials now know what caused the mysterious deaths of a bear sow and her three cubs in early December.

On Dec. 6, the West Wyoming Police Department received a call about a dead bear cub, according to an early December Facebook post. Instead of one bear cub, officials found four dead bears, which had no signs of trauma.

“At this time, the deaths of the animals are being considered suspicious,” the police department said in the Dec. 6 Facebook post.

With few obvious clues about what caused the bears deaths, wildlife officials decided to send two of the bodies to the Penn State Animal Diagnostic Laboratory for testing.

According to the toxicology report, it wasn’t human interference that caused the bears untimely deaths, but a common shrub.

The 300-pound bear and her cubs consumed leaves and seeds of an English Yew plant, which can be deadly if consumed by animals or humans, according to a Dec. 22 Facebook post from the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

The English Yew is commonly used as an ornamental shrub, and often found in urban environments, according to the game commission.

“All species of yew contain the alkaloid compound “taxine” that is highly toxic to most animals and humans if ingested,” the Pennsylvania Game Commission said on Facebook. “The toxin is particularly lethal to animals with single-chambered stomachs.”

Case closed.

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