Something has been attacking dogs in the vicinity of Heron Drive and Mint Lane, west of Neosho.
On Tuesday, the Neosho Daily News was called out to Reta Liles' home where she said her dogs had been attacked: one was killed, while the other was severely injured.
"I heard them barking all night (Sunday)," she said. "Then Punk'n (half beagle half pug) at 2 p.m. (Monday), I came out to do some errands, she met me in the garage and her back was slashed open from one side to another, about 1.5 inches to 2 inches deep. She had a lot of back fat on her like a bulldog or something. So she was very lucky. But this is her second attack. She got attacked right before Thanksgiving, that was really bad, it tore skin lose from her body like this time. She had wounds all over her body."
A second dog, Buddy, a yellow lab, went missing Monday.
"Everybody saw Buddy Monday morning, but he was gone after Punk'n came, we never seen him, we didn't know where he was at," Liles said. "We had to take Punk'n down to Anderson to get fixed up. It was $450, a lot of work. (Veterinarian Dr. Rick Wooden) said he couldn't confirm what did it, but there was a lot of other puncture wounds, small wounds. He said he wasn't a forensic veterinarian, so he couldn't tell me for sure what happened."
Then on Tuesday, Liles and several neighbors, including Faithful Friends Animal Advocates President Leanne Williams, joined to search for Buddy. About 2 p.m. Tuesday, they found the deceased dog in the woods near their homes with wounds on his body.
According to Williams, at first glance, when they found Buddy, they found claw marks and prior to that found tracks, which they thought may be a large cat.
When they found the tracks, they contacted a tracker to investigate.
"These attacks have been happening at 2 p.m. and I would think that these dogs were pestering it, but why would it jump the fence, beat the crap out of the dogs and just leave," Liles said. "It is bigger than a bobcat, I can tell you that."
"We are just getting pretty nervous about this, this is the eighth dog that has been attacked in our little (area) here," said Williams.
So the question remains, what is attacking and even killing dogs? Could it be another dog or a large cat or even a mountain lion?
Neither Williams nor Liles has seen the predator.
"A tracker came over and he confirmed that those were big cat prints there," said Williams.
But an official with the Missouri Department of Conservation disagreed.
"I have been dealing with these dog killings for about a month and a half now," Newton County conservation agent Jerid Wilkinson said. "The tracker that they called out did not find mountain lion tracks, he found coyote tracks. That is all that he found. I spoke to the people after the tracker came out and they told me all that he found was coyote tracks and some hair from a coyote. I was out there this morning (Wednesday), and looked at both of the dogs and I didn't see any major claw marks. There was some major damage done to the dogs, but I didn't see any major what I would assume was major claw marks. To this point, we have had no verified tracks, hair or photos of any mountain lions in that area. And I have told the people out there multiple times that until we do, we can't confirm that is what it is. We have to have some sort of confirmation that is what it is. Based on tracks, photos or hair or some sort of DNA sample."
Page 2 of 2 - Wilkinson said there were differences between dog tracks, wild canine tracks and those of a big cat.
"A track in the mud, if it is a good track you can tell the difference between a mountain lion, a dog or a coyote real simple," he said. "The main factor is the claw marks if you see at the end of the toes, if you see claw marks, it is a dog of some sort because cats have retractable claws, so they don't leave claw marks when they leave a print. Anytime you see a track with claw marks it is typically a dog or canine of some sort. It is very obvious if you have them in the mud to tell what it is."
Liles is saddened by the loss of Buddy. She has had him since he was about 9 months old. He was 7 years old.
"I cried all night because I couldn't find him," Liles said. "I couldn't find him, and I just kept thinking he is out there somewhere needing me. There are so much woods around here and it got dark on me by the time I got back from the vet. I don't know if I could have saved him. Maybe, maybe not."