Archive for Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Strange pet deaths concern neighborhood

September 6, 2005


On the morning of Aug. 6, John and Rosie Elmore found the mutilated remains of their dog in the backyard of their southwest Lawrence home.

The scene was too difficult for Rosie Elmore to take in.

"I didn't get close to it, but my husband did. I knew it was bad," she said as she recalled the incident recently.

Neither the Elmores nor their neighbors heard any unusual noises the night the 15-pound West Highland terrier they called Noel was killed. But a few months ago Lee Beth Dever and her husband, Michael Dever, were awakened by a dog barking somewhere in their neighborhood.

The barking soon turned to into a blood-curdling wail.

"It was the most God-awful wailing, crying and screaming," Lee Beth Dever said. "It was so disturbing that at the time we actually thought, 'Gosh, someone is beating their dog.'"

A mystery

Several residents who live in the area of Alvamar Golf Course and Country Club and in neighborhoods just north of Bishop Seabury Academy think some type of animal is attacking and killing small dogs and cats that have been left outside overnight. It's been going on for several months, they said.

At least three dogs have died under mysterious circumstances, including the Elmores' dog. Neighbors also said cats have disappeared or been found dead.

Dogs Lincoln, a sheltie, and Trixie, a poodle, are shown off by their owners, from left to right, Sean McSweyn, James McSweyn, Tess McSweyn and Katie Gaches. Residents in their neighborhood are concerned about stories of pets being attacked.

Dogs Lincoln, a sheltie, and Trixie, a poodle, are shown off by their owners, from left to right, Sean McSweyn, James McSweyn, Tess McSweyn and Katie Gaches. Residents in their neighborhood are concerned about stories of pets being attacked.

"We've been bringing our cats in at night," said Susan Stuever, who has found small animal remains during morning walks in her neighborhood and around Alvamar.

"My dogs will pick stuff up when we're out walking and you can tell it's the leftovers of something," she said.

The most common theory among the neighbors is that a mountain lion or a bobcat is the culprit.

"I think there needs to be some sort of evaluation of the wildlife in this neighborhood," Dever said.

The Elmores notified police and animal control officers about the death of their dog. It is the only such incident in that area reported to them, police spokesman Sgt. Dan Ward said.

Police and animal control do not handle wild animals and refer such incidents to the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.

There have been several bobcat sightings in areas of western and southern Lawrence the past few years. Earlier this summer a dead bobcat was found near 31st and Louisiana streets. A bobcat and her kittens took temporary refuge under a shed in another neighborhood.

All the talk about small animal deaths is a concern to Joan McSweyn, who along with her husband, Donald, and their three children moved into a residence near the Elmores just a month ago from Las Vegas. They have a sheltie dog.

"We don't let him out unless we go with him," Joan McSweyn said. "In Vegas we were used to having walls. Here everybody has an (underground) electric fence. That keeps your animal in but it doesn't keep other animals out."


Late on the night of Dec. 27, 2003, Sarah Merriman let her dachshund outside, intending to let it back in a few minutes later. She suddenly heard her dog yelping as if it was hurt. She rushed outside and found the dog in a nearby dry creek bed.

"I think whatever it was was carrying (the dog) and I must have scared it away," Merriman said of the incident, which occurred while she was living in the Quail Creek Drive area just north of Clinton Parkway.

The dog was badly injured and, despite the efforts of a veterinarian, died the following day, Merriman said.

Merriman called the Prairie Park Nature Center and was told the attacking animal may have been a coyote.

"We had since then heard lots of coyotes running up and down the creek," Merriman said. "It must be their little roadway."


Merriman now lives in a house built farther west along Inverness Drive. When the house was under construction several bobcat sightings were reported by construction workers, she said.

Several months ago a beagle belonging to Matt Harms and his wife, Christy, disappeared out of their yard, which had an electric fence. Matt Harms also found his dog in a nearby dry creek bed. Harms said it didn't appear to him that the dog had been attacked. But the only thing he can think of that would have killed it was a malfunctioning shock collar.

Jeff Clouser, a KDWP officer who lives in Lawrence, doubts that a shock collar, even a malfunctioning one, would kill a dog. But he said he would have to see an animal's remains before offering a theory as to what might have killed it.

Bobcats rarely attack dogs, though they might attack a cat if it thought its territory was being invaded, Clouser said. As for a mountain lion, they rarely attack unless it's for food or self-defense, he said.

There are a lot of things that could attack and kill cats, such as hawks or horned owls, Clouser said.

"It's just hard to tell without seeing it," he said, of the dead animals.

Although there are reports from time to time, there have been no confirmed sightings of mountain lions - sometimes called cougars or panthers - in the Lawrence area, but Clouser said he wouldn't be surprised if there are some here.

"I'm not doubting that there is a possibility, and I think it's just a matter of time (before one is confirmed)" Clouser said. "But we have not been able to confirm a sighting."

Clouser doesn't think people need to worry about being attacked by either a mountain lion or a bobcat. As for small pets, if owners are concerned they should keep them inside, especially at night.

Bobcats have periodically been seen over the years in the tree lines around Alvamar, according to maintenance workers. There have been reports of a mountain lion seen on Kansas University's west campus.

Alvamar landscape supervisor Chris Habeger thinks it was a mountain lion he saw one afternoon in July as he was about to finish mowing property near Lake Alvamar - formerly known as Yankee Tank Lake - just off of Clinton Parkway but well west of the golf course. Habeger recalled making a right turn on a riding lawn mower and then being startled to see the big cat behind him. It was only about 10 feet away, he said.

Habeger said he saw the animal walk a short distance and sit down near a treeline.

"It looked very confident, assured," Habeger said. "I was going to take a final cleanup lap but I decided not to."


lunacydetector 12 years, 7 months ago

this sounds like a mountain lion on the prowl to me. pretty scary stuff.

i think there is a professor at ku who is an expert on mountain lions and the Christian faith (snicker). perhaps someone should ask him what he thinks, then again, thanks for not asking him.

i saw one at clinton lake on the dam road awhile back. always wondered when the reports would come in regarding the house pets, but figure the leash law had an affect in delaying these kind of reports.

DubbleDukes 12 years, 7 months ago

leash law?!?!?!?!? you've got to be kidding me!!! i see more dang animals OFF the leash when around people than on the leash!! its almost like the people dont believe there is a leash law here in lawrence.

as for the mysterious deaths, i'd want to see the bodies before jumping to conclusions about what killed them. i know we've got the cougers (mountain lions) and coyotes around and all, but i've not seen a coyote get up close to any animal smaller than a cow. my sister has them on her property in the country and she has never lost an animal to them. she's got both dogs and cats of her own, and there are cattle on the property that belong to the landlord. i did see the coyotes try and corner a steer one night, but thats about it.

but who knows what could have killed them...i do know one thing, i agree with that Clouser guy, i dont think an electric shock collar can kill a dog....however in this day and age, it wouldnt surprise me if one actually did.

Kookamooka 12 years, 7 months ago

It seems to me that the golf courses and parks in town create a bridge from Clinton Lake to the residential areas of Lawrence. I'm not saying get rid of them, I love having a little wilderness around, I just know that when you threaten a habitat with development, the animals that lived there get confused and start to wander aimlessly. Territories are lost. I think we should stop developing new properties, particularly multi-family apartment/townhome complexes, until we have enough people to live in the existing ones.

lovenhaight 12 years, 7 months ago


I'm a vet assistant, and I just wanted to say that yes, coyotes attack things smaller than cows. Just this summer we have had 4 small dogs attacked. Its kind of obvious that a predatory creature would go after a smaller animal, so maybe you should just chalk your sister's experiences up to luck because logic isn't in her favor on this one.

16180 12 years, 7 months ago

What concerns me much more than the disappearance of small animals is the ability of Mr. Belt and Mr. Clouser to ignore the fact the DNA evidence confirming the presence of a mountain lion was found in 2003 on West Campus. This is the best confirmation that one could hope to get, short of actually capturing the animal. What exactly does KDWP consider confirmation? Why does Mr. Belt ignore the facts as they were reported in LJWorld on 10 December 2003, in an article entitled "Lab confirms droppings belong to mountain lion"? What's going on here? Do these men not understand the science, do they dispute it, how can they ignore it?

girly 12 years, 7 months ago

I saw a big coyote run across 6th street in front of Dillion, the one farthest west, a week or so ago.

DKAG 12 years, 7 months ago

Frankly, living in Lawrence, it doesn't surprise me one bit that we would have animal predetors in the area from time to time. If you have pets, keep them indoors at night. These animals are looking for food. If you don't want them around, keep your yards clean and your garbage contained. It's common sense and we're living in what used to be their hunting area. We've managed to take most of these animals natural habitat for ourselves. It won't hurt us to learn to live with them, after all they were here first.

donsalsbury 12 years, 7 months ago

Is it just me, or would it not take 5 days' worth of KDWP folks sweeping through western Lawrence and nearby undeveloped land to humanely remove the majority of these critters to an area that's safer for them to roam and hunt?

I can see some foolish people on the west end of town taking matters into their own hands and setting out traps--or worse, hunting--for the mountain lions and coyotes and bobcats and inadvertently catching or shooting a neighbor's pet, or a even a neighbor.

Something's gotta give.

commonsense 12 years, 7 months ago

Let's put our pets away or secure them in kennels at night. This will take care of the coyotes and bob cats. I don't think these animals are threats to humans because they rarely (if ever) attack humans. So removing them isn't really necessary.
If it's a cougar, than that's a different story. I'm all for animals and their habitats, but a cougar in a neighborhood is an accident waiting to happen. Unfortunately, it always takes a tragedy in order to get something done. IF done correctly, an area could be hunted with dogs and hopefully after many attempts, they could tree this animal. Once tree'd, a wildlife conservation officer places a dart in it, and it is moved to Colorado, Wyoming, etc. No children get attacked, the animal isn't killed, and out pets are a little safer...

loboda 12 years, 7 months ago

Yes, there are wild animals around Lawrence and close by to the north in Leavenworth County. I know of several people who have seen bobcats and mountain lions in this area not too far from Lawrence. Plus remember Lawrence has built out west now and I'm sure animals, including bobcats and coyotes, have been displaced. Coyotes attacked a family dog (fairly good sized dog) when I lived in Leavenworth County years ago and injured it so badly, we had to have it put down. So don't think it can't happen to your pets just because you all "live in the city". I would think with this many pet deaths that someone would want to investigate what is causing them.

bigfootphotonet 12 years, 7 months ago

I wish there were a little more info. on exactly how the pets died and how big they were. If there are no puncture wounds, bites or claw marks, then how did the animals die; broken necks or backs? I find it very curious that one pet owner feels something was carrying her dog away. Any tracks in the creek beds?

Shardwurm 12 years, 7 months ago

Actually I think it's a band of Wildcats getting ready to beat Jayhawk butt in football. :)

nomorebobsplease 12 years, 7 months ago

hmmm, I'd hate to think of someone setting out to trap or kill any of these types of animals. We have invaded their territories. Keep pets inside or in a secure kennel, secure your trash and just keep an eye open. I lived for years in a small town and got used to hearing and seeing the coyote's at night, especially in the winter they would run down our street. I kind of miss them singing..... and we all had secure garbage cans!

jenannseg 12 years, 7 months ago

There was (definitely) a mountain lion in my parents' neighborhood last summer/early fall. There are lots of coyotes also & small dogs & cats have been killed a lot there (they live near west campus). Keep your dogs in at night is a good suggestion, but even letting them out for a few minutes so they can go to the bathroom or whatever & them disappearing isn't something we should have to deal with. If we wanted our animals to be killed by wild animals we would live in the country. It's not something that should be a problem inside a city & something should be done about it.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 12 years, 7 months ago

My wife saw a coyote at 18th and Ohio in the middle of the day. No typo here: just a block from the Student Rec Center. At night they are very mobile, so they could easily get to any part of Lawrence in one night. Consider this as well: during times of drought, they are really desperate for easy sources of food and water. A little Westie laying on the grass next to a bird bath is a nice meal for any wild predator. Why chase down wild squirrels when a dumb house dog is just sitting there?

kansasjhawk 12 years, 7 months ago

I agree with "nomorebobsplease"..I work construction in Lawrence, and I know for a fact the we have invaded there territory, especially out west past Wakarusa. The closer Lawrence builds towards Clinton State Lake the more and more animals you'll see in town. I was driving to work a month ago and seen a white tail deer at 9th and Avalon!..if that doesn't tell you we've "invaded" what will...

countROCKkula 12 years, 7 months ago

Why has no one posed the possibility of the Pickney Satanists up to their old tricks again?

way_beyond 12 years, 7 months ago

Mysterious urban pet mutilation has been occurring all over - including London England, Vancouver B.C., Salt Lake City Utah, Denver Colorado, Bellingham WA, Kelowna B.C. and most recently Oak Harbor WA.

Google for "mysterious halfcats", "cat mutilations continue +toronto" and "Rutland cat killer". Also "Purloined Pets Perplex Plano Police." And "Police in Two States Probe Cat Mutilations"

Go to "thisislocallondon" and in the archive (left side) select 1998 - input "pet killer" - no shortage of returns.

p> keeps current on recent unresolved serial pet mutilations.

This is a first-order Fortean mystery and predatory wild-life theories just don't cut it (pardon the pun.)

yourworstnightmare 12 years, 7 months ago

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yourworstnightmare 12 years, 7 months ago

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