Officials in spotsylvania, va., got a lesson in the danger of jumping to conclusions after workers at the county landfill turned up what appeared to be a severed, rotting human foot while cleaning the treads of a bulldozer. The left foot was hairless and had been sawed off cleanly at the ankle. Suspecting foul play, local authorities sprang into action, dispatching 35 deputies and fire-and-rescue volunteers to sift through 127 tons of garbage using rakes, cadaver dogs and hands, in hopes of unearthing the rest of the victim.

After a week of searching and a series of breathless press reports on the growing mystery, medical examiners X-rayed the foot and determined that it did not come from a human after all, but instead belonged to an “apelike species.” While theories of homicide were dispelled, Bigfoot believers were encouraged. Primate experts chimed in, saying that the foot did not appear to belong to any known species. But a week later, the mystery was solved after forensics experts finally identified the limb as a skinned and declawed black bear paw, most likely discarded by a taxidermist.

The only remaining mystery surrounding the foot was how Spotsylvania authorities would be removing it from their collective mouths.