What Species Killed That Georgia Couple?

Posted by: Loren Coleman on August 18th, 2009

“The mauling deaths of a retired UGA (University of Georgia) professor and his wife, a longtime librarian at the university, are almost as mysterious as they are tragic,” noted reporter Christian Boone of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The elderly couple were killed by something on Saturday, August 15, 2009, on a rural road near Lexington, Georgia.

Authorities made up their minds what animals killed the couple, almost instantly. It was the usual suspects. Various wild mixed-breed dogs, some reports say a dozen, others say 15, were found standing over the slain couple when the coroner arrived at the scene on Saturday, noted such media outlets including WBS radio and the Associated Press.

“They were not aggressive whatsoever,” said James Matthews, coroner for Oglethorpe County. “I guess that’s what makes the attack so hard to figure out.”

What evidence have law enforcement personnel used as the basis for their finding that dogs did it?

Preliminary autopsy results show 77-year-old Lothar Karl Schweder and his 65-year-old wife, Sherry, died of injuries related to multiple animal bites.

Authorities say it appears Sherry Schweder was attacked as she walked on a dirt road near her house, looking for one of her own six dogs. It appears her husband later went looking for her and was also attacked. Their mutilated bodies were found by a pair of visiting Jehovah’s Witnesses about 12 hours after the Schweders went missing.

“Evidently, they were out on this side road, Howard Thaxton Road, and they were attacked by a group of dogs and was mutilated by them,” said Oglethorpe County Sheriff Mike Smith. “We got the findings of the autopsy on the woman and they said that she died from dog bites. They completed the male’s autopsy and they said it was dog bites. There was a group of dogs. We don’t know exactly who is the actual owner. They’re feral dogs and they were running straight down here on Howard Thaxton Road.”

Eleven dogs were rounded up on Monday and sheriff’s department personnel returned to the area Tuesday to find four more dogs spotted by a deputy. Authorities from Oglethorpe and Madison counties rounded up the dogs who will more than likely eventually be euthanized.

Lanier Bridges who lives on Elberton Road a few houses away from the Schweders’ home, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the mixed-breed dogs “have been around for years. We never had a problem with them.”

The account seems to raise several questions. Has there been a rush to judgement on the part of authorities? Could some as yet-unidentified animal killed the Schweders, and only the evidence of post-attack dog bites from the feral dog pack been found on the bodies? Was a verdict against the non-aggressive dogs found at the scene too quickly brought forth?

The Humane Society says federal statistics show an average of 16 people die each year from dog bites.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

37 Responses to “What Species Killed That Georgia Couple?”

  1. JMonkey responds:

    Well we can rule out the usual suspects. Possibly a Black Bear, they attack more people than Grizzlies. It also could have been a mountain lion, though you would think that would be obvious to the coroner. I certainly don’t think we should attribute this to chupacabras, hairy hominids, or aliens, so that pretty much leads us to the obvious feral dog attack. I have seen a dog that was perfectly sweet, turn in an instant and attack its owner. Wild animals will often take risks when they are hungry as well. You can see this behavior in the recent break out of Cougar attacks on hikers, joggers, and hunters. Humans are not the Cougar’s usually prey, but the reward of a full belly outweighs the risk. There is no reason to believe that the dogs would not be perfectly calm, and safe to be around after the kill. I do not claim to be an expert in animal psychology, but I have been an outdoorsman for the past 20+ years, and I grew up on a working ranch, so I have seen my share of animals attacking unprovoked, and then being perfectly calm the next minute.

  2. Imaginary Friend responds:

    I read this story and immediately thought something sounded strange about it. Why would the dogs suddenly attack humans after being around a community for years? I hope all the forensic DNA evidence was collected at the scene, but I doubt it. Did the dog bites come before or after their deaths? I’ve heard of pit bulls attacking children or old people, but unless these folks waded into a huge dogfight, I just don’t see how it happened. And have they ruled out bears?

  3. ebonycrow responds:

    Generally I don’t post on stuff like this, but it reminds me of when my brother was attacked by a rabid malamute. I wonder if they even thought about testing any of the dogs for rabies…? If one dog attacks, the others will as well. It just takes one dog to convince the rest of the pack that they should attack.

    However, even if these dogs were the ones that attacked the couple, it should have been obvious regardless. Did any of the dogs have blood on them? Such a brutal attack would have left blood stains on some, if not all, of the animals involved in the attack.

    It could have been a bear, it could have been a cougar, a jaguar, it could have been a number of things. But, if there wasn’t blood on one or more of the dogs at the scene, why would they be convicted? I think it’s a prejudice toward feral animals. They don’t have an owner, so they must be vicious, uncivilized creatures that attack anything and everything they can.

  4. Loren Coleman responds:

    The AJC has noted of the 11 dogs picked up from the alleged feral pack in that area that they “showed no signs of malnourishment or rabies.”

    Nevertheless, they have been judged “guilty,” and there seems little doubt they will be put to death.

  5. korollocke responds:

    Oh for pete sakes it was dogs! Not everything has to be mysterious or unknown. I used to live in the area and yes there were and obviously still are packs of gone feral dogs out there. If it were a bear or cougar the damage to the bodies would have much more gruesome.

  6. Loren Coleman responds:

    Korollocke writes: “If it were a bear or cougar the damage to the bodies would have much more gruesome.”

    “It was a vicious attack,” says James Matthews, coroner for Oglethorpe County.

    Oglethorpe County Sheriff Mike Smith says it was “a grisly scene.”

  7. m responds:

    I have a pretty good working knowledge of dogs. The report said that the woman was out searching for one of her own dogs. Very possibly the pack had attacked her dog and she waded in to try to save it. That would have been enough to have the pack turn on her. Then her husband came on the scene, tried to get them away from her and they turned on him. A very logical sequence and a very sad one.

  8. ebonycrow responds:

    I don’t know, how different would the attacks look, a single cougar (or bear, or otherwise large and vicious predator) to eleven+ dogs of various sizes and strength? If the bodies were “mutilated”, that sounds bad enough. Of course, all they would have to do was look at the neck to rule out a big cat attack (which I’m assuming they were clever enough to do that), but I’m still wondering about the blood. If there was an absence of blood on the dogs present, why would they have been taken in? But so far I haven’t found anything in other articles about the presence of blood at all.

    I’m not saying it wasn’t dogs, but do they really have sufficient evidence to suggest it was the dogs that they caught? Did they check the teeth for residual flesh, did they check stomach contents or stool samples for any signs of human flesh consumption? Did they actually TRY to solve their deaths, or are they looking for an easy thing to blame?

    After all, they are just feral dogs, who cares about them? Mangy, useless creatures, of course, it doesn’t matter if they live or die–no human cares for them so what is their purpose in life? That’s what I hate. “They’re just feral…” The dogs they caught might be as innocent as sunshine, but what do the authorities care if they have the right ones or not? :/

    If it’s like M suggested, then the dogs they caught would have been injured. From what it sounds like though, these dogs were uninjured and relatively friendly.

  9. sidwills responds:

    It’s unclear from the article above whether or not the people were killed and left, or whether it was a predatory attack. Also no mention of whether their pet was found alive or dead anywhere nearby.
    On the evidence we have, I’m inclined to agree with M, the pack may well have attacked the couples own dog, and in attempting to save it they’d be seen as part of the rival pack. The absence of blood on any of the dogs isn’t hard to explain away, the bodies were discovered 12 hours after they went missing, animals clean themselves and fur on a living animal is quite resistant.

  10. ebonycrow responds:

    But is that enough time to have gotten rid of any condemning evidence? Between the toes, under the arms, under the chin, behind the ears, etc, where the dog cannot adequately clean or reach? There definitely should have seen been traces of blood in or around the claw area if these dogs are the guilty party. Twelve hours, I don’t think, is enough time for a wild dog to properly clean itself of such evidence. If the authorities really care about this case, they will look those dogs over to the best of their abilities to find any trace of human flesh or blood that could possibly condemn them to death. Otherwise, I think they’re just being lazy or daft–or both.

  11. cryptidsrus responds:

    Tragic case. My condolences to the loved ones of the Schweders.

    Could have been a bear. That would account for a lot of the grisliness.

    Jaguar or Mountain Lion? Highly unlikely. They drag their prey away from the killing scene to their lair, where the body can be consumed in peace. Dogs tend to tear prey apart on the spot, though.

    I do agree those Dogs found at the scene should be looked into more closely. I tend to agree with M. Could have been a pack of feral dogs that attacked Ms. Schweder’s dogs and she stumbled upon them while looking for her pooch. At the cost of her own life. And her husband’s. Ebonycrow also made some good points. Did they check for any resudual blood and flesh?

    I agree with Loren. Let’s not rush to judgement. However, IF it is shown that these dogs found at the scene of the crime were indeed the culprits, I would have no problem putting them to sleep. IF they were the culprits.

  12. gkingdano responds:

    I am a animal lover too. I have seen dogs in packs {feral and domesticated} go from luvey dovey to instintive attack mode within seconds! Once the attacks start there is no way to stop them. I have been bit by my LOVING dogs before I learned that to try and get between 2 of them WILL be dangerous. I break up fights with a pail full of water. As to, if they had human meat in their stomuchs- THEY were guarding the bodies as a food source when the cops got there. The ladys dog was gone a month and had already had been killed by this dogs, probally. Dogs get into a pack atitude which says if you done join in the attack YOU ARE NOT INE OF US and YOU MAY BE NEXT. As much as I hate to see PETS put down — A DOZEN feral dogs in a pack is a death waitng to happen. These dogs had been around for a couple of years. They learned to kill to survive.

  13. Jeremy_Wells responds:

    It’s times like this that we all wish for the kind of lab-work we see on TV shows like Bones, where they look at a wound and say “ah yes, these are dog bites, but blah-blah-blah indicates they were made after the couple had died.”
    “Dog X alone was the guilty party, based on the bite pattern and blah, blah, blah.”

    Sadly, those kind of resources, the ones not based entirely in fantasy anyway, just aren’t readily available or in the budget of most police offices.

  14. dawgvet responds:

    The dogs don’t have to be feral to form into a dangerous pack. My classmate at UGA in Athens (near Lexington) had a cattle farm. He once watched a pack of dog chasing one of his calves; the pack included dogs he recognized as his neighbors’ pets. The neighbors couldn’t believe their beloved pet could kill a calf.

    As to the idea that the coroner would recognize a cougar attack–if they aren’t looking for evidence of a cougar attack, then they won’t likely find it. And since the Georgia DNR refuses to believe (or won’t admit) that there are cougars here, I could very easily see a cougar kill being blamed on wild dogs.

    In the case, I would suspect the dogs first, but don’t depend on the coroner (who is an elected official in Georgia counties) to reliably rule out another animal’s attack if he has never seen one.

  15. korollocke responds:

    What I meant by gruesome was partially eaten, that would have occured with a bear or cougar(I lived in montana for 20 years before moving to georgia and I have seen bear and cougar victims up close.), and lets face it there would also be larger bite marks bigger than a dogs chomp and large claws marks and tears; bones crushed and snaped ect… Overall this sucks, a terrible thing to happen to an elderly couple.

  16. timi_hendrix responds:

    I admit, this report seems a little odd.

    and if the victims were killed “almost instantly” as Loren (or the report) says I don’t think it could be dogs. From what I gather they are noisy and not as cunning as a cougar. Cougars usually get an instant kill by biting the back of the next. These dogs would be barking and jumping and someone would have heard something, no? There wouldn’t be much noise or struggle from a cougar attack. Or perhaps a different creature?

    Thanks for the interesting report Loren.

    – Tim

  17. Imaginary Friend responds:

    Yes, if only CSI was the reality everywhere and they could look at every tooth mark and bit of fur. But in this case I’m sure they won’t.

  18. Averagefoot responds:

    As much as I’d like to be able to blame this attack on something other than dogs, I agree with M. The pack probably attacked the couples dog and then when the people tried to intervene the wild dogs were in such a frenzy that they killed the elderly couple too.

    As for the dogs being at the scene when the authorities arrived… well, those dogs are probably innocent and just happened to come upon the crime.

    in my opinion “feral dogs” really aren’t any more dangerous than coyotes. And by that I don’t me a pack of stray dogs, I mean truely feral dogs.

    We have to keep in mind that all animals can be egged on by things we dont even notice. Be it body language, scent, physical action, etc.

    I know a man that works for the electric company. He’s told me several storie where he jumps a fence to check a box and some guy orders his dog to attack. He told me that about 7 or 8 out of 10 times if you just get on your knees and act friendly to the dog it wont attack long enough for him to get out of there.

    Can feral dogs kill? Yes.

    Could this event turn into a feral dog mass extinction wipeout witch hunt? Yes….. but I hope not.

  19. sidwills responds:

    I don’t think the evidence lends itself to this being a big cat (cougar) attack. If it was a predatory attack by a cat, I’d only expect one kill with tell-tale marks and the body eaten. If it was a defensive attack by a cat makes no sense given the time frame between the kills. Either way, a tragic event.

  20. ebonycrow responds:

    I think with some of the details in the report they’re just trying to make the attack look worse so that people won’t feel “sorry” for the dogs. Some of the details don’t really make sense, as Timi pointed out. Dogs don’t kill “almost instantly”, they’re not built to, and imo they’re just trying to make the dogs out to be such ruthless creatures that they have to be removed ASAP.

    I still do not think it was the dogs at the scene that killed the couple, and I still think that the authorities are just looking to blame something so they’ll look like they know what they’re doing. The dogs were they’re, let’s say it was these dogs, case closed. I refuse to believe that it was the dogs they caught until they actually preform some sort of investigation, I mean seriously, if you’re going to do it for someone, at least do it for the deceased.

  21. BFilmFan responds:

    Autopsies on the human remains are being conducted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation – about as CSI as you can get in real life.

    In January of 2009 in Bainbridge, Georgia 73-year-old Joanne Johns was attaacked by a pack of feral dogs. Feral dog attacks in georgia just really aren’t all that rare. Georgia has had an explosion in the deer population, which provides plenty of food for packs of wild dogs.

    When I resided in both St. Louis (2001) and Detroit (2002), there were huge issues with feral dogs. As I recall, a 10-yr old was killed in St Louis by a pack the year I was there.

    Black bears do reside in Georgia, but I’ve never heard of one attacking anyone. If there is a grizzly anywhere in Georgia, it’s at a zoo. Grizzlies are fearless critters and wouldn’t hesitate to wander up into someone’s yard and make a meal of Fido.

    I have no doubt that there are young male cougars in Georgia; but, I am not convinced we have a breeding population in the state anywhere outside of the swamps in the south. And I’ve never heard of a documented big cat attack in the 20th century. The cougar that was shot by a hunter recently wasn’t threatening the man when he shot it from his tree stand.

    The real truth is that feral dogs a large problem in parts of Georgia and is sure to grow worse as people just abandon pets. They were an issue when I was a youngster in the north Georgia mountains and all us hillbillys knew about it.

    Now if you want to think about something REALLY scary, think about being in your sleeping bag snoozing when Mr. Feral Hog comes to pay a visit.

  22. kentmcmanigal responds:

    I think if a bear had killed the couple there would have been more clawing damage.

    I have always been a woods-wanderer, and have run across feral dogs many times. The packs were often made up of the same dogs that were friendly pets when at home with their humans (several dogs I had seen in both conditions), but when they got together to run and “pack” they were like different animals altogether. Once, when I foolishly left my gun at home, I spent a couple hours up in a tree waiting for some dogs to get bored and leave. I have also seen these dogs tear a pack member apart when shot. The savagery is shocking, but it gives the pursued person a chance to get away.

    I think it is clear that dogs were responsible for the couple’s deaths.

  23. norman-uk responds:

    I think feral dogs should be removed from the scene as they represent a danger especialy to wandering children. No one is resposible for them. They may not have killed the old couple but its quite possible they did!

    Now here is something else to worry about, coy wolves.

  24. alcalde responds:

    cryptidsrus is correct about the cougar. There would be a bite to the neck that is then held and the victim usually dies from suffocation. I think it would be clear to the coroner if asphyxiation was the cause of death. It also wouldn’t explain all the dog bites, and I don’t think even feral dogs are going to try to chase off a cougar and steal its dinner. In fact, if there were a cougar around, I would think it would be making meals of these feral dogs long before it tried for a human – let alone kill two humans in short succession.

    I guess the question for the hypothesis about another animal being responsible would be, how would it have killed two people without leaving any obvious trace on the bodies?

    “I’m not saying it wasn’t dogs, but do they really have sufficient evidence to suggest it was the dogs that they caught? Did they check the teeth for residual flesh, did they check stomach contents or stool samples for any signs of human flesh consumption? Did they actually TRY to solve their deaths, or are they looking for an easy thing to blame?”

    They did solve the deaths. If you have torn up people covered in dog bites, dogs become the obvious culprit. Does it really matter WHICH dog? Do you want feral, breeding dog packs roaming West Virginia? You not only take every dog at the scene, you send police/animal control to round up every single feral dog or even Chihuahua without a collar that you can get your hands on within city/county borders. It’s not like the dogs will have a trial, and without proper DNA evidence, certain dogs will be set free to roam the same area again. There’s going to be a public outcry, and politicians and authorities are going to do whatever they possibly can to make people feel safe. Getting rid of one or two feral dogs while leaving the rest of the pack is not going to eliminate the danger, in the same sense that dealing with the people directly behind 9/11 but leaving al qaeda in place doesn’t guarantee anyone’s long term safety.

  25. Imaginary Friend responds:

    It’s funny because every time that Wolf expert is on Monsterquest she always insists that Feral Dogs never kill anything. Just sayin’. I’m just curious how they ruled out any other animal immediately – bears or wild boars, for instance. I presume they didn’t find any claw marks from bears, but do the local cops really know one bite mark from another?

  26. korollocke responds:

    In Georgia horrific things happen everday and no one cares, gun fights, brutal rape, ect… people not paying ateention to bunch of dogs is not unusal, even they they barking or attacking day or night. I myself was attacked by a domestic gone feral tomcat the size of a bobcat one night when I lived at 5219 skidaway road in savannah georgia. It was going for my 2 year old daughter Zophyia. I caught it in mid leap and the fight was on! My wife and family couldn’t figure out what I was doing in the backyard at night making so much noise till I came in a bloody mess! It bite threw my right left leg several times and the rest of me looked like it went threw a machine twice. My first line supervisor at ft stewart gave me a week to recover from my wounds. Feral animals are nothing to be taken lightly. My little girl is almost five now.

  27. kittenz responds:

    Loren asks:

    Has there been a rush to judgement on the part of authorities? Could some as yet-unidentified animal killed the Schweders, and only the evidence of post-attack dog bites from the feral dog pack been found on the bodies? Was a verdict against the non-aggressive dogs found at the scene too quickly brought forth?

    No, I don’t think there is any reason to suspect a big cat, a mystery beast, or anything else in this attack, other than dogs. This incident sounds exactly like an attack by a dog pack.

    Most people just do not realize how savage dogs can be, especially when there are more than one. We are inundated with a constant barrage of cutesy TV shows, movies, and commercials that depict dogs as clever little friendly people in fur coats – worlds away from the truth. The truth is that dogs are very efficient carnivores, and yes, dogs in a pack can kill a human very quickly. Even a smallish dog can tear a person’s throat open. If a person can manage to remain standing, they can usually escape, but once a person is down, whether they fall or are pulled down by the dogs, they are in grave danger. The dogs do not have to be large dogs, either. When a dozen or so medium-sized dogs are attacking, a person does not stand much of a chance unless there is help nearby to drive them away. And driving dogs off an attack can be nearly impossible.

    I love dogs, and I have spent my whole life caring for dogs of all breeds and every conceivable mix, from the most passive of creatures to hounds from hell that tried to climb up to tear my face off. I’ve delivered puppies beyond count and helped beloved old dogs to a peaceful end. I’ve faced down huge, aggressive dogs through the force of personality and knowledge of canine psychology, and I can count the serious bites I’ve had over the years on one hand. But loving dogs does not blind me to the fact that dogs are, at heart, predators, and they can be very dangerous. I have seen dogs do almost unbelievable damage to each other, and to people and other animals.

    In an attack involving a pack of dogs, each dog tries to bite with its entire jaw, grabbing as much flesh as it can. But most of the damage does not originate from a simple bite (devastating though a single bite can be). When the dogs bite, they bite down hard and pull and shake their heads at the same time. It’s the pulling and shaking that does the terrible damage to living tissue. A pack of dogs quite literally tears the prey apart.

    BFilmFan said :

    The real truth is that feral dogs a large problem in parts of Georgia and is sure to grow worse as people just abandon pets. They were an issue when I was a youngster in the north Georgia mountains and all us hillbillys knew about it.

    Feral dogs have always been a presence here in mountainous eastern Kentucky, too. When I was a child we had to walk out of the rural hollow where we lived to the main highway, about half a mile, to catch the school bus. Sometimes feral dog packs (everyone here calls them “wild dogs”) would lie up in the brush near the mouth of the hollow, where no people lived. The dogs never lived in one place for very long; they kept on the move and rarely stayed in any one area for more than a couple of weeks. The packs lived near the mostly uninhabited mountain tops, coming down into the valleys

    These dogs were very, very dangerous. Sometimes there were just two or three dogs, but more often there would be around a dozen adult or nearly adult dogs in the pack. Usually you would not see small puppies with a pack; they hide them away in a safe place when they’re foraging. My three brothers and I were the only children in the hollow. We had to walk past the place where the dogs were; that was the only way to school and Mom didn’t have a car. Sometimes we could just sort of sneak past the place where they laid up and they would just stare at us or maybe growl. But other times, the dogs would charge at us to try to make us run, or start circling around us in a menacing way as we walked. We stayed close together and picked up sticks or rocks to ward the dogs away. Many times we kids would have to stay bunched together in one place, back to back so that we could watch the dogs, until someone came by in a car and scared them away. All of us have at times had to climb trees or onto boulders to escape when feral dogs chased us.

    Now, mind you, this was not a constant thing. For most of the year, the dog packs lived (as do many today) back in the hills, near the rocky ridges and mountaintops. They feed on deer and rabbits, cats and other dogs, and occasionally livestock, and they scavenge garbage and roadkilled animals. But from time to time, especially in the springtime when many female dogs come into season, or during an especially cold winter, the feral packs will come down into the valleys. They seldom stay in any one area for more than a few days.

    We called the feral packs “wild dogs”, and recognized them as different from ordinary “stray dogs”. Stray dogs were dogs that had wandered away from hunters or from their home, or, more often, had been deliberately abandoned. They wandered about singly or in pairs, and could often be coaxed into coming to hand for a bit of food, and then could be fed-up, treated for mange, and rehomed. Wild dogs, on the other hand, usually lived in packs and were basically wild animals in every way. There were two or three packs that were “regulars”; we recognized individual dogs within those packs and saw them from year to year, some times for two or three years or more.

    The lives of feral dogs are generally short and brutal; theirs is quite literally a dog-eat-dog world. Probably more than ninety percent die before their first birthday. Sometimes they run with coyotes and produce coydog puppies. I don’t know of any in-depth studies that could give a reliable estimate of the numbers of feral dogs in America, but they probably number in the millions.

    Where do these dogs come from? By far the majority were once owned by people. People obtain a puppy, expecting it to behave like Lassie or Benji or Rin Tin Tin right away. Or they want a dog because its breed was featured in a popular movie. They dump the dog when it isn’t a cute puppy anymore, or when it doesn’t live up to the image hyped by the media. Or they let it have puppies, thinking that they will cash in, and then dump the puppies when they can’t sell them. Most of these abandoned dogs don’t survive very long, but a few learn how to fend for themselves, usually by joining other dogs to form packs. An individual dog usually has to take prey smaller than itself, but a pack of dogs working together can take much larger prey. Puppies born in a pack are more likely to survive (at least, some of them survive. The stronger pups tend to kill and eat their weaker siblings).

    The dogs’ apparent lack of aggression when they were found at the scene does not mean that they did not participate in the attack. When dogs attack, their focus is entirely on the biting and killing the object of the attack. Some people call this “red zone”. Imagine the so-called “feeding frenzy” that one associates with sharks; that is a fairly accurate analogy. Once the attack is over, the dog may be very calm and approachable. But dogs often view people differently after having seriously injured a human being in a predatory attack, and subsequent attacks on humans are likely. Especially in a situation such as this one, where a person has been killed, euthanasia is justified.

    The surprising thing to me is that the number of fatal attacks by feral dogs is so low. Feeding them on a regular basis is probably not a good idea, because they become territorial and protective of the area where they are fed, making it more likely that they will attack people whom they perceive to be encroaching on their territory. Bicyclists, people walking alone or with their dogs, and especially children, are the people most at risk, but even a strong, healthy adult human can be seriously injured or killed by a pack of dogs.

  28. CryptoInformant 2.0 responds:

    BFilmFan mentioned that the deer population has been in the rise recently, providing plenty of food for the feral dogs – if that is the case, then I doubt that this was a predatory attack and, if the dogs were healthy, which all sources suggest they were, I do not know of any reason the dogs would attack, except for a violation of territory or an otherwise defensive killing.

  29. kittenz responds:

    They were feral dogs- from what I understand multi-generationally feral. They wouldn’t have any feeling of loyalty toward people that would inhibit them from attacking. The dogs were familiar with these people, who walked the lane nearly every day and had been in close proximity to the dogs many times, so it wasn’t just a sudden encroachment on their territory.

    From the description of the event and the subsequent information in the media reports, this sounds to me like it was an purely aggressive act. The dogs were robust and healthy, but they still attacked a vulnerable human who was familiar to them, and were actively guarding the partially eaten bodies. That is very aggressive behavior. Regardless of what sparked the attack initially, it quickly became predatory.

    The deer population in the southeast is huge, and feral dogs do chase deer. Adult deer are big and fast, and probably escape from dogs most of the time, unless they are already injured to begin with, but fawns and young deer are more vulnerable. Logically, a feral pack’s success bringing down deer varies, depending on the type of dogs in the pack. Packs made up of bigger dogs wouldn’t have trouble killing a deer if they could run one down, but deer probably don’t make up a large part of their diets. Feral dogs subsist more on small game such as rabbits and ground squirrels, and by scavenging, but dogs will eat practically anything.

    As disturbing as it seems, feral dogs, especially those born in the wild, that have never been handled by humans, just do not have any inhibition – other than fear – against attacking human beings.

  30. sschaper responds:

    Quasi-feral packs like this one, even that have a human in the alpha position, behave differently than pet dogs. I’ve encountered such when delivering phone books in rural Iowa. (In time the Sheriff and his deputy put them down). It certainly could have been the pack, especially considering their possessive attitude towards the bodies when law enforcement arrived.

    Normally dogs adopt into human social structures, but when you get a pack like that, and people who aren’t necessarily entirely right in the head, the people can adopt to the pack social structure. This is not a good thing.

    If it had happened in rural Wisconsin, on the other hand (shudder)

  31. norman-uk responds:

    With group predators, isnt the deciding factor on bringing down prey the size of the pack, assumming the pack members were not especially small? The pack then acts much like a large animal, and as in wolves and buffaloes, where very large animals can be brought down by much smaller ones.
    Probably it only takes one dog to become aggressive and the rest will follow. Am I wrong or is there an increase in the breeding of aggressive dogs? American dogs on television seem to be a lot of dogs with the big heads and jaws giving them greater abilty to maim and destroy. In addition if they are bred for aggression the chances of there being a formidable dog in any feral group increases and it may only take one!
    How long does it take for dogs to lose the ‘domestic genes’ acquired over centuries and would this necesserily be a bad thing? Interesting point are the feral dogs a significant predator and what effect would their removal make?

  32. alcalde responds:

    Norman, I’m not sure that there are any American breeders breeding dogs to be aggressive, although there are certainly breeds where guarding and distrust of strangers are desirable traits. In regards to “American dogs on television”, and assuming your moniker means that you are in the UK, I understand that the UK has completely banned the Tosa Inu, the Dogo Argentino (great breed), and the Fila Brasileiro (awesome breed) along with placing extreme restrictions (certificate of exemption, muzzle, neutered, etc.) on the American Pit Bull Terrier. Most of these breeds are in or were bred from a member of the molosser family of dogs (along with the Mastiff, Neopolitan Mastiff (from the Harry Potter films), Dogue de Bordeaux (from the Turner and Hooch movie), etc.). Molossers are large, sturdy dogs with strong jaws.

    You might not see your fair share of these kinds of dogs due to bans in the UK and other European nations. I’ve read that at one time Italy banned *92* different breeds of dog! They finally repealed the breed ban and saw no change in the number of dog bites. Denver, Colorado, USA has the most dog bites in America despite a breed ban and there are efforts underway to remove the ban there as well. The biggest problem with dogs isn’t breeding so much as owners who encourage or fail to remedy poor or aggressive behavior, IMHO, and the dog bite records of areas with and without dog breed bans tends to reinforce that belief.

    I don’t think feral dogs are losing their domestication genetically. Studies that went so far as raising dog and wolf pups together in human environments shortly after birth (to rule out environmental factors) have shown that dogs have a genetic ability to relate to humans that wolves do not. For instance, if you point, a dog will look to where you are pointing, while wolves, including the ones raised in the study mentioned, will not. They don’t understand the meaning. There are other small genetic differences like this that aid dogs in communication and interaction with humans. However, proper behavior is significantly influenced by the socialization of dogs from puppyhood with humans. This is what the feral dogs are lacking.

    The Fila Brasileiro, one of the banned UK breeds, has been bred with an extremely protective nature and is, IMHO, the world’s greatest guard dog. Someone once said “The great thing about Filas is that they will die or kill for you without a moment’s hesitation. The bad thing about Filas is that they will die or kill for you without a moment’s hesitation.” With this breed comes great responsibility. The dog needs to be socialized from the earliest age. It needs to be around people and to learn what constitutes a threat to its family and what is normal human interaction. Its protectiveness, bravery, intelligence and ability to act without human direction are genetic. It’s knowledge about what’s a threat and how (and how far) to react is learned from experience. I’ve heard tales from Fila owners about great acts of bravery from their dogs, including stopping an attempted sexual assault, saving its owner from a dog attack (snatching the attacking dog out of mid-air as it leaped for the man’s throat), and upon hearing the family’s girl crying in the front yard after a fall, one Fila scaled the back yard’s six-foot-high fence to get to the girl and see if she was ok. However, I’ve also heard of one dog that was never socialized. The dog now will not let any male within six feet of the female owner for any reason. They’re all well-bred dogs, but their early exposure to, or neglect of, proper interaction with people is what makes these dogs good or bad. The same can probably be said of these feral dogs. Without the knowledge and experience gained from human interaction, they have only their wolf-like instincts to act on, in this case with tragic results.

  33. cryptidsrus responds:

    Apparently (from what I understand) the dogs have already been put down. Took about 92 minutes to put all of them down.
    The Sheriff’s Dept apparently said they WAS evidence of their culpability in the deaths.
    Just reporting what I learned.

  34. norman-uk responds:


    Thank you for your interesting and extensive reply.
    I actually think that dogs did not originate from wolves but have seperate ancestry, maybe having a common ancester. More interesting don’t you think? Likely though some cross breeding with wolves and maybe the odd fox if this were possible. As a result the huge variety of dogs.
    Also of interest some of the original dogs may still be around like the guinea singing dogs and the dhole.


    I wonder when you and the other children were faced with the feral dogs you acted like prey, such as screaming or running away or cowering. No intention to offend here, just trying to get the picture. Brilliant report!

  35. kittenz responds:

    norman-uk ,

    I also believe that the accepted model of the gray wolf as the sole ancestor of the domestic dog is way too simplistic. For one thing, dogs left to their own devices, to breed randomly over several generations, begin to approach a dingo-like rather than a wolf-like appearance. I believe that many local species and subspecies of wolf-like canids, some now extinct through assimilation, have contributed their genes to the formation of the canids that we call domestic dogs.

    The area where I live has only recently, within the past 40 years or so, emerged from subsistence-farmer way of life. Most every family hunted to supplement their diet. Plus, many people kept a few head of cattle or pigs, and occasionally sheep or goats, along with the horse or mule that was used for plowing. Most everyone had a few chickens and ducks for eggs and meat, and often some rabbits. And everyone had dogs. Many of the older men kept foxhounds, and I have fond memories of the lovely music od foxhounds running the fox along the ridges. Foxes were almost never killed. Instead, they were left alone at the end of the chase, to run another night. The younger guys kept (and many still keep) coonhounds: bigger, heavier, racier dogs than foxhounds. A lot of men kept bird dogs too: mostly English pointers, but occasionally Brittanies. Nearly every family also had small -to- medium dogs called “feists” which were more or less terrier types. These were the best squirrel dogs and all-around varmint dogs. Then there were beagles and sometimes bassets for hunting rabbits, and always a big shaggy yard dog of some kind, usually an English Shepherd or a Collie. Occasionally you would see a German Shepherd Dog; these usually belonged to families of people who had been servicemen. None of these dogs was bred for aggressiveness (although the occasional aggressive one was seen). During that long-ago time, if a dog – any dog – bit someone without provocation, that dog was not long for this world. Pit bull dogs were unheard of in general circles, but there may have been some kept clandestinely, as fighting dogs, by a few folks like bootleggers. Sometimes, dogs would stray from a hunter or from home, and get lost, or just turn feral. Most of those dogs were eventually taken in by some family, or shot for chasing chickens, but some stayed in the woods & formed packs. These were not very numerous and as a rule they did not bother people too much, but when they did come into a hollow, they could be dangerous. Those dogs that ran in wild packs filled a niche much like the one that the coyote fills today (Coyotes are another introduced species, not native to this area).

    We didn’t live in abject fear of the wild dogs; we were just wary. Because we were raised all our lives with working dogs that really worked, and hunting dogs that really hunted, we learned from an early age how to act around dogs. We would run and play with our own dogs, and we could roam the hills accompanied by our big German Shepherd Dog, with never a fear of wild dogs. There were times when we would run across them, but he was more than a match for any of them, and we were safe as long as he was with us.

    These wild dog packs tended to take on identities and were give local nicknames. As a rule they were more nuisances than anything else, and from time to time one would allow itself to be adopted. The successes of these adoptions varied.If the dog was not too wild and had not attacked people, he could make a good pet, if treated with kindness. Some people put out scraps for them; othera rocked them and shot at them. We kids knew from experience not to ever run from dogs.unless there was a climbing tree, or someone’s shed or porch close to hand. Although we often tried to coax certain dogs to come in and be pets, there
    were others who were so brutal that we did no dare try.

    We learned early on the value of a good dog, and the danger of feral dogs.But we all loved dogs, and we always tried to bring them in and tame them, except those which had become so feral as to be untamable

  36. norman-uk responds:

    Well I can almost see it, smell it, and hear it all from your description! Giving me a view first of something real and which then merges nicely into Disneys ”The Fox and the Hound” and back again! Our hound dogs were lurchers, particularly the norfolk lurcher.
    I worry that any general cull would also remove any odd things that might be around-like the unlikely shunka warakin to give an extreme example.
    Many thanks for your ticket to somewhere else.

  37. hetzer88 responds:

    Case closed.

    Feral dogs are killers, they have to be. They survive by tooth and claw, and regress into their own genetic pack mentality when banded together. It’s not bad and it’s not good, it’s just the way it is.

    Pack mentality dictates that anything walking or running is considered food. Now deep down there may be some inbred fear of attacking humans, but on the face of it, if they are hungry enough, if they are in some way provoked, or if for whatever reason someone gets in their way, they will attack. And to attack means to kill. Those actions go hand in hand.

    Needless to say, without any other evidence to the contrary, a deceased couple surrounded by feral dogs leads to only one real conclusion; the pack attacked and brought them down.

    However, all may not be as it seems. Feral dog packs are also incredible opportunists, and will eat roadkill or carrion any time they can find it. A couple attacked and killed by any other creature, cryptozoological or common, may have either left the corpses of their own accord–whether they fed on them or not–or may have been driven off by a pack of feral dogs who recognized a free and easy meal when they encountered it. Ripping, tearing and eating that was there could certainly have hidden virtually any other teeth marks left by any other carnivore.

    In the strictest sense of this post, Loren is correct. Was it a pack of feral dogs or was it something else again? The obvious conclusion is that feral dogs were the culprits, and that may be entirely true. They were there, they left teeth marks and they were all considered feral, case closed. However, Oswald was the ‘case closed’ killer of JFK, but I’d love to know, who then fired the shot from the grassy knoll?

    Case closed!

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