When Sheriff Dale “Frog” Ford was called to the home of Eddie Ray and Janet Denton on Sunday morning, he never imagined the horror awaiting him.
However, on Sunday morning, Sept. 2, around 7:45 a.m., he was notified of a situation and arrived on the scene to find three miniature horses with multiple lacerations across their body, but mainly in their head and neck areas – lying dead at various spots in Denton’s pen.
Ford contacted Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife immediately to come to the scene to provide help in discerning what animals could have caused the carnage.
According to Ford, one F&W representative came to the scene and took pictures of horses and one track which resembled a large feline – or cat track – in the mud next to one of the horses’ body.
Ford noted, at that time, the biologist agreed that the killing looked to be the handiwork of some sort of big cat — with many suspecting a mountain lion had been the culprit. The biologist then left the scene without taking any samples, cast molds nor any other types of testing, Ford said.
Another F&W officer did come to the scene around six hours later, he added, and made additional pictures, Ford added.
As news of the situation spread, news outlets contacted Ford who advised the public to exercise caution until
the manner of death could be confirmed, especially with small children outside, animals and livestock.
“It’s a matter of public safety, I think,” he said. “I felt it was extremely important for the public to be aware and I still do.”
However, on Tuesday morning, Ford was shocked to receive a Face Book message from an account listed to Dave Baker, the Information Branch Manager at Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife which read:
“Please update your website to reflect that the animals were shot, not mauled by a large cat. It’s causing unnecessary panic out there. You can verify through (officer and biologist’s names removed but listed with contact information). Please address this asap.”
To which Ford replied “bull—-. They came down there and took measurements of the bite wounds and the track found at the scene and even stated it was a cat, but he couldn’t tell exactly what kind of cat it was — but that it was definitely larger than a bobcat.”
Ford also pointed out that over the past two months, Denton had experienced most of his chickens being killed, along with 18 of his ducks from his pond, but during that time, he felt that it was the work of bobcats or coyotes. However, looking back now, Denton wonders if the cat had been in the area the whole time.
“I’ve had reports of mountain lions being spotted throughout the county sporadically for the past few months,” Ford said, “but these were all unconfirmed.” Since this incident has occurred, Ford has received a picture of what appears to be a large cat – possibly a mountain lion – approximately three miles on the east side of Tompkinsville. (Denton’s property, as the crow flies, is about a mile from the City limits, Ford added.)
“My gut feeling is that this is some sort of large cat and my concern is public safety first. If this is actually a mountain lion, other livestock such as Denton’s horses, or even humans, could be at risk,” he added.
“I don’t really care if everyone doesn’t believe us — or makes fun of us for issuing these warnings,” Ford said. “But I’d rather be wrong and cautious than to be right and something serious occur again.
Ford also noted that within 500 feet of the dead horses laid a family’s pet Husky, with injuries which led them to believe it was related while another dog in the area was documented with scrapes and scratches after the night of Sept. 1.
“I’ve been very disappointed in the assistance we have asked for and what we haven’t received from Fish and Wildlife. They (F&W) haven’t answered many of the news media’s calls for information – and one media source said they were going to study the animals – that would be a little hard to do since they told the owners they could do what they wanted to with the bodies and they’ve been buried,” Ford said.
If you notice anything suspicious, call the Sheriff’s Office at 270-487-6622. “And be prepared to protect your family and your property at all times,” Ford said. “These animals – if it is a mountain lion – are not native to this area, so they’re not protected by federal laws. Do what you have to do,” Ford said.