GLENMOOR - A grisly discovery Friday by a passerby has both police and animal control officers wondering.
St. Clair Township Police received a call about 2:30 p.m. from a woman reporting she had seen three skinned and decapitated dogs in a plastic bag in a ditch near Cornell and Third streets.
Patrolman Jim Briggs said the county dog warden and Humane Society of Columbiana County were contacted to initiate an investigation. He had not visited the site to view the discarded animals so was uncertain of their exact location or the types of animals found.
A search of the road by this reporter did result in discovery of a skinned carcass of what appeared to be a medium-sized dog, whose head was also missing. Nearby were a dead possum and a dead bird that appeared to be a hawk or perhaps a grouse, neither of which had heads attached, although they were not skinned.
Inside a white trash bag was the entire pelt of what may have come from the skinned carcass.
A call was made from the scene to dog warden Dawn Croft, and photos of the animals were sent to her via phone.
After viewing the photos, Croft said, "I would almost bet my next paycheck on it being a coyote," adding the pelt also appeared to be that of a coyote.
She noted there is an open hunting season on coyotes, which can be killed any time since they are considered nuisances.
Croft was uncertain whether there is a hunting season for possum.
Representatives of the Humane Society were expected to go to the scene but had not arrived when this report was made.
Two men working on a house at the intersection of Third and Cornell said they had been there all day and not seen anything out of the ordinary.
Croft said any investigation would most likely consist of speaking with the caller who reported finding the animals and taking pictures, saying it will be difficult to investigate with no information on how they ended up where they were found.
Shown the photos Friday night, Jim Kerr, volunteer director of the Beaver Creek Wildlife Center, said the bird "definitely looks like a hawk," although without closer inspection, said he was unsure what type.
Kerr said it is illegal to kill most birds, which definitely includes hawks. Game birds, such as turkeys, ducks or grouse may be killed during specific hunting seasons, but he said none of those are currently in season.
If the hawk was killed accidentally, Kerr said, the legal method for handling it would be to leave it alone. He said moving a dead bird is actually illegal.
According to Kerr, the carcass and pelt could definitely have been those of a coyote, which he confirmed is legal to kill.
He speculated that, perhaps, someone was removing accidentally killed animals from a roadway and decided to dump them but first attempted to remove the coyote's coat in hopes of being paid for it.
"Maybe they found it was more trouble than it was worth," and decided to just dump the carcass and pelt, Kerr said.
Although not illegal to handle or even leave behind the coyote or possum carcasses, Kerr said, "It's definitely not a very nice thing to do," saying the decent thing would have been to bury them out of public view.
Anyone with information about the dead animals should contact the dog warden, Humane Society or police department.