A number of dead animals found in a Washington, D.C., park are puzzling investigators and disturbing nearby residents.

The carcasses were found in Rock Creek Park. (Image source: WJLA)

The carcasses were found in Rock Creek Park. (Image source: WJLA)

According to WJLA-TV, the carcasses of nine dead animals — six chickens, two pigeons, and one goat — were found by someone walking on a path in Rock Creek Park Tuesday. And it’s not the first time a mysterious animal slaughter has been spotted in D.C.

“Over the past couple of years we’ve had a few of these cases,” Scott Giacoppo with the Washington Humane Society, which handles animal death investigations in D.C., said.

Giacoppo went on to tell the news station they think the animals might have been part of a ritual sacrifice, like that which occurs in the Santeria religion.

“We don’t know if it was conveniently dumped, or if that was actually where they left it as an offering to whatever god,” Giacoppo said. ”I have no opinion at all on the religion, my job is just to make sure that the animals weren’t treated inhumanely.”

According to the BBC, Santeria (also translated as Way of the Saints) originated from the slave trade in Cuba. It combines Yoruba beliefs and some elements of Roman Catholicism.

Watch WJLA-TV’s report:

WJLA reported that if the animals were killed humanely that it would not be considered an animal cruelty crime, as the Supreme Court has previously ruled that followers of some religions have the right to perform animal sacrifice. According to WUSA-TV, the animals throats were slit.

Area residents found the discovery a bit unsettling.

“I would never have thought that could have happened here,” Chase Ballinger told the news station.

The U.S. Park Police is also conducting an investigation.