WORCESTER - A police investigation into a reported discovery of a human skull in woods off East Mountain Street was short-lived after the state medical examiner's staff determined it was a fake.

Worcester police tweeted Wednesday afternoon: "There was briefly an investigation into the discovery of what appeared to be a human skull located on East Mountain St. It turned out to be a synthetic fake skull, and there is no longer an investigation."

The item, which looked like a human skull, was found near 258 East Mountain St. shortly before noon.

Paula Isakson said she was driving on East Mountain Street when she saw two workers from a tree company, and one had his hand on a small skull that was on the guardrail.

The tree workers, she said, thought it was a Halloween decoration and left it on the guardrail, but she thought it was real and went to a nearby business for help.

A worker went with her, looked at the skull and called police.

She said police walked back into the woods with the tree workers, who showed officers a spot about 10 feet from a guardrail. Neighbors said the tree workers were checking for Asian longhorned beetles.

Investigators bagged the item and told a reporter to leave the area. They strung crime scene tape along the edge of the woods and into the forest, where they continued to work, some wearing booties. Eventually a large command vehicle arrived.

Investigators carried brown paper evidence bags from the woods and photographed the area, then abruptly abandoned the search, apparently after being alerted that the skull was not human.

Mrs. Isakson said the skull seemed small, almost toddler-sized. A police officer told her it was probably left there recently - but not too recently. Another woman said she drove by just as police were arriving and saw the small skull sitting on the guardrail. She said she thought it might be that of a baby. Both women said they said a prayer.