updated 10/21/2008 9:53:46 PM ET 2008-10-22T01:53:46

Authorities in North Carolina said the dumping of a dead bear cub draped in Barack Obama signs was a student prank, not a political statement.

Officials said seven Western Carolina University students were involved, and possible charges are being discussed with the local prosecutor.

The students told authorities they took political signs at random to cover the bear's wound and prevent blood from spilling into the bed of the truck they were driving.

Officials say the students discovered the cub, which had been shot in the head, while camping over the weekend and brought it back to a gathering at an apartment near campus Sunday night. It was during that gathering, say officials, that a student suggested placing the bear at the base of a statue at the main entrance to the campus.

Maintenance workers found the bear cub's body early Monday morning near the school's entrance.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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