MORINO/SERYODKA, Russia -- Colorful Christmas lights festoon the streets of the remote Pskov Oblast village of Morino from October until May. The cheerful decorations look more than passing strange against the background of ramshackle wooden houses and unpaved streets, but they serve a purpose.
Locals are convinced the bright and blinking decorations help keep the wolves away.
Wolves have been a growing nuisance in this corner of Russia for the last three years, but this year, locals say, the problem is worse than ever.
"They dragged my dog Gavryushka off," said local retiree Aleksandr Loginov. "In the morning, some hunters and I went looking, but we only found her head."
Dozens of local dogs have been killed since the end of the summer. Although no people have been attacked, many locals are scared to go to work in the mornings or take their children to school. The streets are empty when darkness falls around 5 p.m.
"The school bus comes to us around 8 in the morning," said local resident Marina Ivanova. "The driver told us how when he was driving past the village store he saw wolves walking along the side of the road. They weren't frightened by the headlights or the driver's shouting. They just walked along calmly."
"I'm not just scared for the children," she added. "If I met such a beast, I don't know what I would do."
Vladimir Kargapolts says the wolves have visited him three times. Only the chain was left of his first dog, while he found the head of his second in a bush out in the fields.
"The wolves aren't afraid of anything," he told RFE/RL. "They walk through the village just like they were in the forest."
Morino resident Valery Krotov is a hunter, but he says locals are not allowed to shoot wolves.
"If the wolves become more numerous, they will attack people. You can count on that," Krotov said. "But we don't have permission to shoot them. This is a populated village, after all. We would be fined, for sure."
He added that officials never paid him or his hunting comrades for the wolves they shot last year.
Nikolai Volkov, the region's hunting inspector, said hunters won't be able to go after the wolves until there is a substantial snowfall.
"Without some snow, we are completely blind," he told RFE/RL. "We can't see or even guess where the wolves might be during the day."
The winters lately, he added, have come late and been mild.
Locals in the neighboring village of Seryodka don't use Christmas lights, preferring the traditional defense of leaving pitchforks along footpaths for people to use in the event of an attack.
"An army of wolves came to Lena Vasilyevna on Soviet Army Street," said local resident Irina Ustinova. "They weren't afraid of lights.... One man yelled at one and the wolf got scared and ran off."
Wolves have been a problem in Seryodka since September, locals told RFE/RL. They have been seen on every street in town. Fences are useless and dogs have reportedly been snatched out of sheds and garages.
So far, officials have only advised residents to build better fences and sturdier doghouses, advice that locals scoff at. Almost all of them are either pensioners or are working for minimum wage at one of the few village jobs. They don't have the means even to repair their drafty homes.
So they continue to devise their own solutions.
"I walk to work in bright red mittens," said schoolteacher Svetlana Andreyeva. "I hold flashlights inside to produce a sort of red flare. Maybe that will frighten them."
Appeals for help from the regional and federal authorities have been ignored for years.
"I appealed to [President Vladimir] Putin during his Direct Line call-in program in 2017 and again in 2018," said retiree Tamara Ivanova. But her question didn't make it onto the broadcast and she never got any response.
Hunting inspector Volkov said he believes the wolf problem has gotten worse in recent years because of the disappearance of wild boar that they previously ate. Since 2013, the government has implemented a program of hunting the boars to combat an outbreak of African swine fever.