Published: Dec 26, 2011 7:22 PM EST
Updated: Dec 27, 2011 11:23 PM EST

NAPLES, Fla.-Authorities say a Golden Gate family found one of their horses slain in their backyard on Christmas morning.  Monday, they ruled it a panther attack.
Collier County Sheriff's spokeswoman Karie Partingon tells the Naples Daily News ( ) that the family told investigators that it looked as though the horse had been killed with an ax.

Amanda Townsend of Collier County Domestic Animal Services said Monday afternoon a necropsy performed by a veterinarian showed the wounds are consistent with those of a panther attack.

Florida Fish and Wildlife officials also confirmed the panther attack ruling, saying tracks around the families home are also consistent with a panther attack.

"It feels bad, because it's like part of the family.  Like a son lost kind of," the horse's owner Oscar Gutierrez said.

The family originally thought a person was responsible.  They told WINK News a young foal was stolen from their property on Thanksgiving of this year.