SUMNER – The rumor of a large pile of dog skeletons dumped in the backwoods of Sumner sparked alarm in animal lovers all around the state this week, but it turned out to be carcasses of coyotes and other small animals discarded by a trapper, a state warden said Friday.

Even the governor’s office was receiving calls. And some people who have had dogs gone missing in the last few months wondered if that was the fate of their pet.

Rick Stone of the Maine Warden Service said if the trapper who left the bodies at the site ever came forward, he would “ask him not to put a pile of bones in one place so that it doesn’t sound like a big satanic thing.”

Stone checked out the site off Darnit Hill Road on Friday morning after a man riding a dirt bike discovered what he said were about 60 dog remains in the woods. The man called the warden service soon after discovering the graveyard scene Wednesday, but he said when officials failed to respond to his report, he called the media.

“I talked to him Wednesday night,” Stone said, standing in the parking lot of the Buckfield town office to talk to the media Friday afternoon. “He didn’t describe something very urgent to me.” Stone told him that he would check it out Thursday or Friday, he said.

But the man, who wished to stay anonymous, said he felt the response from the state police, warden service and local dog officer was inadequate, and he called Channel 6 news, which broadcast the story Thursday night.

The site is in Sumner, close to the northwest corner of Buckfield. Following a woods trail 150 feet off a dirt road, Stone said he found 10 coyote, six fox, two deer and about 50 other skulls that could have been muskrat or fishers. He said they have been dumped there during the last five years. The warden service has had calls about that site in the past, he added.

“Trappers provide quite a service taking care of nuisances all over Maine,” Stone said. Trappers skin their catch and sell the hides, typically throwing away the rest of the animal’s remains. Sometimes when the animal is mangy, they’ll leave the entire animal behind.

A resident in neighboring Hartford, Heidi Corey, said when she listened to the news Thursday night, she immediately thought that her 16-year-old English Setter, lost since last November, could have been one of the carcasses.

“We just moved to the area, and we don’t know if he ran off,” she said, or if somebody picked him up.

Town Manager Glen Holmes said residents called his office with questions after seeing the news story. But he said if that many dogs had gone missing in town, he would have known about it.

“That was the biggest tip-off to me,” Holmes said. “You talk about 50 dogs or more. The town of Buckfield would have noted that many dogs missing.”

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