With nearly 20 domestic cats missing from the Shoshoni area without a trace, many locals suspect humans of trapping the cats.
Authorities also haven’t ruled that out.
“It’s not coyotes. I can’t find any tracks of dogs,” Shoshoni’s T.J. Cornell told Cowboy State Daily.
Cornell lost a beloved cat, Jake, this month and has asked others in the town of Shoshoni to watch out for him.
There are at least 15 cats missing from the Shoshoni and Bonneville area, plus another three missing from a neighborhood north of Riverton near Shoshoni, according to Facebook posts and “cat missing” posters.
“With that many missing cats you would find some sign of coyotes getting them. There is no blood, no fur (or) hair… (I) don’t smell death either,” said Cornell.
Cornell believes the cats are being trapped with a manmade device. Many Shoshoni residents agree.
Neither the Shoshoni Police Department, the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office nor the Wyoming Game and Fish Department have ruled out that possibility.
Mountain Lions, Coyotes
While mountain lions routinely stalk around Riverton, they’re not as common in Shoshoni, said Dan Thompson, large carnivore supervisor at Wyoming Game and Fish.
Thompson said there have been no recent reports of mountain lion sightings near Shoshoni.
Fremont County undersheriff Mike Hutchison said the same.
Thompson also said there hasn’t been a spike in coyote population or feeding that would explain a large surge in domestic cat disappearances.
“Definitely, to my knowledge, we’re not seeing an overabundance of any of the predator populations in that area,” said Thompson.
‘They’re Just Gone’
Chris Konija, Shoshoni Police Department chief, hears coyotes singing in the night.
Konija hasn’t dismissed the coyote theory. He said chickens and skunks have been attacked in town recently. Coyotes, having gotten used to hunting in town, may be leading their buddies to town and developing a group hunting pattern.
Konija also hasn’t ruled out the idea of someone trapping cats, he said.
“We haven’t seen any (cat) corpses or bodies – they’re just gone,” said Konija.
He said the Shoshoni Police Department in the past has trapped feral cats when they became a problem, but those methods have not been used recently.
‘Whoever Shot My Cat’
The Facebook feeds in which Shoshoni residents have tried to sort out their vanishing cat conundrum are fraught with mystery.
Shoshoni townspeople have a shared Facebook page in which they help each other, promote causes and events, and work out issues.
When Ashley Martinez Haddenham posted that her daughter’s grey and orange cat was missing, another woman, Tammie Hardtke, wrote “call me” on the post.
“I would like to know too what that lady had to say, as I have missing cats,” said another commenter, Shadell Mullen.
But Hardtke told Cowboy State Daily later that she was merely telling Haddenham where stray cats like to feed.
Crystal Stone told the group that she knows people in the area who trap cats “because they don’t like cats… Jerks.” She later said she knows who is doing the trapping, but would not disclose to the group the person’s identity.
Stone did not respond to a message request by Cowboy State Daily.
“I want to know who it is,” said Cornell. “I look for mine every day.”
Ricky Hilder told the group that he found buckshot in his cat one evening.
“And whoever the bastard is who shot my cat better be glad I don’t know who they are,” said Hilder.
Then the mayor weighed in.
“Coyotes are heck with cats. We do have coyotes near and in town,” said Joel Highsmith, Shoshoni mayor. Highsmith, however, said he hasn’t spotted as many coyotes in town this year as in past years.
Zack Walker, nongame specialist for Wyoming Game and Fish, said raptors like eagles and owls could account for some housecat disappearances, but not a widespread problem.
Hawks are smaller and likelier to eat cats near their homes, leaving carnage behind, he said. People also would notice if eagles, who are day hunters, were carrying off cats all summer.
Great-horned owls hunt at night and could abscond with an occasional cat, “but they’re not really known to clear off huge populations,” Walker said.
If raptors are to blame for the cats’ disappearance, townspeople can expect to see crowds of the birds lurking around and some carnage left behind, he said.
Walker also ruled out a cat pandemic, saying the pet owners would see signs of sickness in their cats.
Both Walker and Thompson said it’s possible that a human has been trapping cats, but neither have received evidence of the act that since feral cats aren’t Wyoming Game and Fish jurisdiction.
Monica Nunez, another commenter to the Shoshoni town’s Facebook group, offered another theory: The cats have moved to her place.
Nunez announced to the page that stray cats often show up in her yard.
“If you come by DURING SCHOOL HOURS and find your cat or one you want… take it home please,” said Nunez. “Know that if your cat is here it has been fed and loved and if you take one, make sure it gets fed and loved.”