Jeff Snyder was hiking with his dogs in Pike National Forest, on a trail just across the street from his neighborhood near Divide in Teller County. It's an area that he and his wife, Lisa Berg, have hiked hundreds of times.
On this particular Saturday afternoon, however, two hunters were not far from the trail themselves, using a predator call to attract the coyotes that they were hunting. Instead, they caught the attention of Reka, Snyder's 75-pound malamute and husky mix.
The hunters took aim and fired, and the bullet ripped open the dog's stomach.
Luckily, Snyder is a doctor and Berg, who happened to be at home, is a veterinarian. She was able to save Reka's life after hours of work.
Now, she says, what she would like is justice.
"My dog should never be confused with a 40-pound scrawny coyote," Berg says, adding that Reka was wearing an orange collar.
According to Michael Seraphin, Division of Wildlife spokesman, investigators with his agency discussed possible charges that could be brought against the hunters through the 4th Judicial District Attorney's office.
More than likely, he says, the agency was probably looking at the charge of hunting in a careless manner.
He reads from the state statute: "Careless means failing to exercise the degree of reasonable care that would be exercised by a person of ordinary prudence under all existing circumstances."
"That's the one that was looked at most closely," Seraphin says. But Lee Richards, spokesperson for the DA's office, says the agencies that investigated the shooting, which included the Teller County Sheriff's office, did not recommend charges be sought in this case.
A call to the Teller sheriff's office was not returned. The hunters' names were not released by authorities, so they could not be contacted.
According to Seraphin, the hunters were hunting legally in an area of the forest where hunting is allowed.
Berg's complaint is that, had these hunters shot and killed an animal that is not in season, say an elk or moose, they would have faced a fine. In some cases, a very steep fine: mountain goats will cost you $25,000; a major trophy bull elk can mean a $10,000 fine.
Seraphin explains: "Most of our hunting violations are misdemeanor charges that can at times, when you get multiple charges, the fines can shoot up kind of high."
However, even in these instances, any alleged violation will be investigated and the hunters are able to challenge the charges.
Berg says that she has no trouble with hunters, "but it would be nice if they'd get off the trail a little bit. It would be nice if they weren't where you could absolutely expect people to be."
She points out that her husband was walking with the dogs that day, and was near the shooting.
"We've hiked there for years, three or four times a week," she says.
"I am just dumbfounded that you can't safely hike with your dog because you can't trust hunters to know what they are shooting, and if they shoot your dog, there are no repercussions," says Berg. "This person shot a dog with absolute impunity."
She adds that she intends to take the hunter to small claims court to recoup vet bills (Berg says the hunters have agreed to pay half the cost of the medical care).
At least it's some sort of punishment, she figures.
"Where does this stop?" she asks. "At what point are they liable for knowing what they are shooting?"
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