By Laura Zuckerman
SALMON, Idaho, March 21 (Reuters) - The mysterious disappearance of about 30 dogs in southern Idaho has baffled animal control officials and raised concerns among dog lovers after a German shepherd was found with its head crushed in a suspected ritual killing.
The missing canines range widely in size, breed and age.
"The dogs seem to vanish into thin air," said Debbie Blackwood, director of the animal shelter in Twin Falls, Idaho.
Officials say some 30 dogs have gone missing in recent months in Twin Falls and nearby communities in an agricultural region in south-central Idaho known as the Magic Valley.
A man and his young daughter hiking along the north rim of the Snake River Canyon northeast of Twin Falls earlier this month discovered the remains of a German shepherd that had apparently been stoned to death, Blackwood said.
The dog, found in an area known as the Devil's Corral in neighboring Jerome County, appeared to have suffered a "ritualistic execution" in which its head was crushed with rock and its carcass covered with a purple cloth, she said.
The case has prompted the Humane Society of the United States to offer a $5,000 reward for information leading to a conviction in the dog's death.
The incident was under investigation, said Jerome County Sheriff's Deputy Rick Ustick.
No one has stepped forward to claim the dog.
It was unclear if that case was linked to the rash of dog disappearances, authorities said. Dogs have been removed or released from private yards, unleashed from chains or failed to return home after roaming.
"Animals go missing every day. What's disturbing about this trend is that there is absolutely no trace of them," said Lisa Kauffman, Idaho director of the Humane Society of the United States.
John Goodwin, head of animal cruelty policy for the Humane Society, said it was unlikely dogs were stolen by people engaged in dog fighting, which is illegal in Idaho, because it was rare for those involved in the activity to use just any dog.
Twin Falls spokesman Josh Palmer said city officials on Wednesday consulted with the Humane Society and other animal rescue officials about the missing dogs.
Meanwhile, authorities were asking residents to report "any unusual activity, like the stalking or taking of pets," he said. (Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Lisa Shumaker)
Also on HuffPost:
Dogs Over The Bridge
In the past fifty years, 50 to <a href="http://www.cracked.com/article/181_the-6-creepiest-places-earth/" target="_hplink">600</a> dogs have jumped over Scotland's Overtoun Bridge and plummeted to their deaths. A few years ago, five dogs jumped in under six months. <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-411038/Why-dogs-leapt-deaths-Overtoun-Bridge.html" target="_hplink">The Daily Mail</a> wrote an article featuring reports of horrified pet owners who walked their dog over the bridge, when suddenly the dog would, without warning, leap over the bridge, falling 50 ft to the rocky bottom below. Perhaps even more disturbing, there are <a href="http://www.cracked.com/article/181_the-6-creepiest-places-earth/" target="_hplink">reports</a> of "second timers" - of the few dogs who have survived the fall, some jumped over the same bridge <em>again</em>. Many <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-411038/Why-dogs-leapt-deaths-Overtoun-Bridge.html" target="_hplink">theories</a> have circulated about why dogs react this way to the bridge. Some suggest that the dogs are deliberately committing suicide, perhaps due to depression in their owners or even a supernatural force. More recent research suggests that it may be the scent of minks, an animal known to live under the bridge. Whatever the explanation may be, perhaps dog owners should simply stop walking their dogs over the Overtoun Bridge.
<a href="http://www.livescience.com/strangenews/dead-blackbirds-arkansas-bizarre-animal-deaths-110105.html" target="_hplink">LiveScience</a> reports that in 2005, over 1,000 toads exploded in Germany. An autopsy revealed that birds had eaten their livers, causing the toads to puff up and explode. Perhaps the birds were hired by Hannibal Lecter.
Sheep Suicide March
In a pretty strong argument that sheep really do follow blindly, hundreds of sheep followed each other over a cliff in Turkey in 2005. According to the <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4665511.stm" target="_hplink">BBC</a>, 400 sheep died, but another 1,100 falling sheep survived the pileup due to bodies cushioning their 15-meter fall. The mass “sheep suicide” devastated villagers in the eastern Van province, as families had relied heavily on their sheep for survival.<a href="http://www.usatoday.com/news/offbeat/2005-07-08-sheep-suicide_x.htm" target="_hplink"> USA Today</a> suggests that it was an estimated loss of $100,000. What we want to know is, if all the sheep were following each other blindly, which stupid sheep was leading them all?
Thousands Of Dead Red Devils
In 2005, <a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/02/0223_050223_giantsquid.html" target="_hplink">National Geographic</a> reported that thousands of jumbo squid were found beached in California. The death of these “Red Devils” remains a mystery - they may live at depths of over 2,000 feet, so it’s hard to learn much about them. In life <em>or</em> death.
Birds And Fish Bizarreness
In early 2011, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/05/hundreds-more-dead-birds-_n_804952.html" target="_hplink">thousands</a> of birds and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/05/dead-birds-fall-from-sky-_n_804591.html" target="_hplink">millions</a> of fish were found dead across the globe. Mass numbers of dead fish have appeared in Maryland, Arkansas, Brazil, and New Zealand. Meanwhile, a crazy number of dead birds have been found in Arkansas, Louisianna, Kentucky, and Sweden. Theories ranged from fireworks to the apocalypse. We're hoping it was closer to the former.
<a href="http://articles.cnn.com/2010-07-29/world/uganda.anthrax_1_anthrax-hippos-game-meat?_s=PM:WORLD" target="_hplink">300</a> Hippos were found dead in a Ugandan park in 2004. An investigation revealed that the mass death was due to an anthrax outbreak found in their water. More recently, <a href="http://articles.cnn.com/2010-07-29/world/uganda.anthrax_1_anthrax-hippos-game-meat?_s=PM:WORLD" target="_hplink">82</a> hippos died this June from another anthrax outbreak in Uganda.
Thousands Of Flamingos, Penguins, And Pelicans
<a href="http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2040762_2040769_2040787,00.html" target="_hplink">Time Magazine</a> reports that in 2009, birds of many varieties died in mass numbers in Chile. Thousands of flamingos, 1,200 penguins, and about 60 pelicans all were found dead over the course of two months. There has been no proven reason for why all of these birds died, although some theories point to global warming, pollution, overfishing, or the unusually hot weather.
Hundreds Of Beached Whales
One eery Sunday night in 2009, nearly 200 pilot whales stranded themselves on an island between Australia's mainland and Tasmania, reports the <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7918144.stm" target="_hplink">BBC</a>. A few months earlier, over 150 pilot whales had beached themselves on Tasmania's west coast. One theory suggests that there may have been a disturbance in echo-location due to nearby humans.
10,000 Wildebeests Pileup
<a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/bigphotos/37881794.html" target="_hplink">National Geographic</a> reports that an estimated 10,000 Wildebeest lay piled up dead along the banks of Kenya last October. The animals all drowned while trying to migrate across the river, resulting in one percent of the ENTIRE species population being lost. We can’t help but wonder… after the first one, two, even 5,000 wildebeest drowned, why did the rest of them still decide to enter the water?
50% Of Earth's Species
Forget mass deaths that happened last year, even last century. This mass animal death really redefines "mass." 65 million years ago, <a href="http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/images/yucatan.html" target="_hplink">NASA</a> reports that the Chicxulub crater was formed when an asteroid or comet slammed into the earth, wiping out over 50% of the Earth's species. Dinosaurs didn't just die in mass, they went extinct. Makes a few thousand bird deaths seem like a drop in the bucket, doesn't it?
<a href="http://www.livescience.com/strangenews/dead-blackbirds-arkansas-bizarre-animal-deaths-110105.html" target="_hplink">LiveScience</a> reports that a shower of frogs may have fallen to the ground in the early 20th century. The report is based on a book by Charles Fort, who describes the phenomenon as "a shower of frogs which darkened the air and covered the ground for a long distance." While this event occurred during a rainstorm in Kansas City, Missouri, similar reports popped up in dozens of countries around the world, from Germany to Tahiti. Scientists believe it is possible that strong winds may have carried the light animals short distances, creating the appearance of a frog shower.
Animals Escape Death
10 lucky critters escape from becoming road kill.