Chardon, OH--Geauga County residents have been reporting an uptick in the number of missing pets over the last two months.
Newly-installed County Dog Warden James Gibson said there were 20 missing dogs and 10 missing cats reported in October, up from 11 missing dogs and four missing cats this month last year. In September, there were 15 missing dogs and eight missing cats, an increase from last September's numbers of eight and two respectively.
What's more, no identifiable dead animals were found. A skeleton later determined to belong to a Labrador retriever was discovered in Munson Township, but no connection with any of the missing dogs could be made.
"It'd been picked clean," Gibson said. "Clean."
He suspected turkey vultures had been at the carcass for days before it was found. There were no other dead animals found on county roads or in any of the townships.
Gibson advised residents to keep their pets, particularly cats and small dogs, indoors unless on leashes. This is doubly true at night, when predators would be most active.
Leslie Groves, a resident of Claridon Township, lost her beagle Samwise in September.
"He got out when I was taking out the garbage," she said. "Wriggled between my legs and out the door he went."
Samwise had gotten out before, but had always come back within a few hours. It's now been over a month and no sign of Samwise, alive or otherwise. Groves doesn't know what she's going to tell her daughter Abigail, 10.
Andrew Steinberg, a resident of the Huntsberg township, said the pet disappearances began increasing when some forests near Chardon-Windsor Road were cleared to make room for a new shopping center, the first new commercial construction in the area since 2008.
"Dozens of acres of forest, clear-cut," he said. "Whatever's living there, if it's still alive, is having it make its living elsewhere."
He suspects the perpetrators are coyotes, although he admits he hasn't actually seen any coyotes even at night.
Alva Jones, a representative of Donner Construction, denied any connection between the new development and the missing animals.
"There was no sign of coyotes or any other large predator when we surveyed the land," he said. "We found what looked like a squatter camp, but it had been abandoned for some time."
He offered his condolences to those missing their pets.
So just what has been driven out of the forests and forced to prey on cats and dogs in order to survive? Find out by reading "Melon Heads" by Matthew W. Quinn, available on Amazon.com.