Hunter kills companion dog: “I thought it was a wolf”

LeeCreekDogIt wasn’t hard to see this tragedy coming. Really, it was just a matter of time–not if it would happen, but when.

A Missoula, Montana man went skiing on Sunday, Nov. 17th (2013) with his three canine companions– malamutes all–and returned home with only two living dogs. The third, a 2-year-old named Little Dave, was shot multiple times by a camo-clad hunter who thought he was killing a wolf.

The story–as reported by the media and expounded upon by county and state officials–can be read in

Little Dave’s guardian, a man named Layne, witnessed his companion’s death. Because it’s right that he tell the story in his own voice, and because animal advocates will recognize the depth of his anguish–and anger, I offer his personal account of the event, taken with his permission from his Facebook page.

What is on my mind is the tragedy that has taken place and the miss quotes from the media and the Sheriffs dept. So I am setting the record straight. This is what happened….

I went crosscountry skiing up at Lee Creek campground where I have gone in the past. Knowing it was hunting season I put the bright lights that are on all three of my dogs collars.

After skiing for about 200-300 yards I here “tat”, my dog in front of me, his rear leg is blown off. I scream “no,no,no,stop stop” and as I near my dog who was 15 yards in front of me I hear “tat,tat,tat,tat.”

Little Dave - courtesy photo from Facebook

Little Dave – courtesy photo from Facebook

I look up and there is the “hunter” and I screamed “what have you done?” Screaming hysterically, the man says ” I thought it was a wolf.”

I said “You just killed my dog, you killed one of my kids.”

I started screaming “noooooo.” He started to say something like “can I do something,” not I am sorry.

I said “Do you know what a wolf looks like? You killed my dog.”

The man took off, I just screamed “noooooooo” and tried to put him back together but his leg was torn off and yes 15 yards in front of me and yes he was shot with an ASSAULT rifle, I know I have seen them it was either an AR 15 or AR 14. It was all black had a sound suppressor and that was why no big BOOM BOOM semi automatic.

I know guns, I don’t have any but I have shot them before, and yes I have hunted both Bow and Rifle. It is the irresponsible hunters who think they can shoot any animal they see if they are in the woods.

The MT Fish and Wildlife said they couldn’t press any charges because it wasn’t a game animal on the road, it was a domestic animal. What???? Bullshit, So I left my skiis and poles there, put my Little Dave’s bloody and broken body on my shoulder and hiked out to also get my other dogs to safety.

So no charges, I call the police dept who gives me examples of people getting hurt because of the public outcry and are afraid of vigilante violence. But the truth is still one of our rights and so is freedom of speech. I don’t want this guy to get hurt , but something needs to be done…I am heart truly heart broken, everything I do is for my dogs, from where I live, to what I drive, and what I do is predicated on the lives of my dogs…Thank you to everyone who has wished myself and my other dogs Frank and Rex well…Layne

Where do we go with our anger–those of us who love dogs? Who love wild places? The last time I went to Lee Creek–years ago now–we met friends there to go snowshoeing with our combined three dogs. Shortly afterward, we learned that a skier’s dog was caught in a snare at Lee Creek, yet we’d never given the first thought to the possibility that traps might be lying in wait there. Even the U.S. Forest Service touts this area for its winter recreation opportunities–but the mountains feel less friendly. We haven’t been back to Lee Creek since.

Now, a six-month-long wolf hunting season–September 15 to March 15–stretches into the future, increasing the odds that more tragedies await. As of today, 85 Montana wolves have been killed, and the 2-1/2 month wolf trapping season hasn’t even started. The woods are not safe for anyone–wild, domestic, or human.

A culture of gun worship, a vendetta mentality against wolves and other predators, and the complete dominance of blood sports in both funding the state management agency and setting its management goals have left a great many of us out in the cold, without peace of mind in wild country–when we venture there at all.

Little Dave, on a romp in the snowy outdoors, paid the ultimate price when a man with a gun couldn’t distinguish between a malamute and a wolf and took the shot anyhow. And then fired several more. And while the dog’s guardian is not necessarily opposed to hunting, it can’t be of any consolation that the bullets that killed his beloved companion were meant for another canine who loves her pups and her family equally as much, in her own way. We animals are really quite similar in many meaningful ways.

Fearing and spearing animals in Montana

The Montana legislature meets every other year for 90 days. There’s always talk of how this isn’t long enough to get the people’s business done, but some years (like this one) would be better skipped altogether. The legislature–ever filled with pillars of anti-government, anti-regulation conservatism–is awash in a strong infusion of tea this year. To let you know how bad it is for animals, let me first tell you how bad it is in general.

Here are just two examples. One House representative pleaded for keeping the death penalty based on the “fact” that inmates now kill their guards with AIDS-infected paper airplanes. (OK, she called ’em blow darts.) Another sponsored a bill making it public policy to acknowledge that global warming is beneficial to Montana’s welfare and business climate. (Mercifully, this one was just tabled.)

In a whacked-out atmosphere like this, what chance do animals stand? To wit, a few items from the little shop of horrors Republicans are busy creating for native wildlife. Let’s start with nullification of the Endangered Species Act, which would solve the “wolf problem” once and for all. Proponents invoke Thomas Jefferson and claim that the ESA is an unconstitutional use of Federal power. This bill is still chugging along.

Legislators want to reclassify mountain lions as predators, essentially declaring open season on them. Read about Montana’s recreational predator killing here. They want to regulate wild bison (think Yellowstone’s iconic herd here–the last genetically-pure, migratory herd we’ll ever know) as livestock. They’ve proposed a slew of anti-wolf and grizzly bills–including one to declare the griz population recovered and allow preemptive killing.

One misguided senator wants to return Montana to the Stone Age, allowing atlatl and hand-thrown spear hunting during general rifle season. When is enough enough? We’ve got bullets, arrows, and traps; we’ve got year-round, unlicensed recreational killing of many predator and “nongame” species in addition to regulated hunting and trapping seasons. As if there weren’t already methods and opportunities enough to maim or kill animals in Montana! This bill has passed out of the Senate and awaits its House hearing.

(Why, you might ask, is a Montana legislator infatuated with Neanderthal bloodsport? This astute senator cited defensive end Jared Allen of the Minnesota Vikings. Allen’s showy exploits are available online, where he spears a domestic elk on an Illinois game farm.)

Let’s consider suffering, something a majority of our senators failed to do or simply dismissed. A poorly-placed bullet can quickly be followed by another, but what about spears…? I posed this question to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, pointing out that legislators are not wildlife experts, and should not be making such serious decisions without knowledge of the consequences. Is there research on injuries to animals from poorly-thrown spears? Is there data from other states? Shouldn’t this be part of the discussion?

This answer came back from the FWP Law Enforcement Bureau: “When this bill was introduced, we sent out an inquiry through National Association of Conservation Law Enforcement Chiefs (NACLEC) regarding this issue. Of the 50 states, 35 responded, with all but one not allowing spears or atlatls for hunting big game. Many states did allow it for either small game or birds, however. The one state that did allow it for big game hunting (Alabama) had only one season behind them and had no information regarding wounding, etc. That is really the extent of the information available to us at this time.”

FWP is taking no position on the bill, maintaining that it’s a “social issue” with no biology involved.

Is spear hunting actually about hunting–or really just about ego and killing? Let Gene Morris of Alabama be your guide. Morris, the self-proclaimed “greatest living spear hunter in the world,” has killed 542 animals with spears, more than 80 of them two at a time (a spear in each hand), and is working on killing three at a time using his leg. He’s even built a museum to pay homage to his killing career. If you like what you see, you can order DVDs. ”All the kill scenes are very explicit,” he says.

This post first appeared at the animal law blog, Animal Blawg.