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Family dog mistaken for coyote, shot by hunters

December 14, 2011

By Pat Hill, OurColoradoNews.com

The accidental shooting of Reka, a 75-pound malamute/husky, has got animal lovers up in arms in Teller County.

Shot and seriously wounded by two men out to reduce the number of coyotes in Pike National Forest Dec. 10, Reka is today recovering at home with her owners Lisa Berg and Jeff Snyder.

At the time, Reka was wearing a bright orange reflective collar with tags.

Reka was shot while hiking with Snyder on a trail that leads to the “717” trail system in Divide. Snyder had parked the car at the trailhead on Cedar Mountain Road. “Two men from Castle Rock and Colorado Springs were utilizing some type of of ‘coyote calling’ device to attract coyotes, and this got Reka’s attention and she went toward the noise,” Berg writes in an email sent Dec. 11 to hundreds of friends and colleagues. “She was shot in the chest.”

In a telephone conversation with the Courier View a couple days later, Berg continued the story, still emotional. “Jeff wrapped her in his sweatshirt and the two men followed behind him, completely nonchalant,” said Berg, who is a veterinarian. “I want their names and numbers because I am going to pursue anything I can. It doesn’t sound like we can do anything. To me, it’s crazy. If you don’t know what you’re shooting at why are you shooting?”

After the phone call came in from her husband, Berg met Snyder and Reka at Teller Park Veterinary Service in Divide, where the owner, Shannon Lemons, DVM, was waiting for them.

“Dr. Lemons is a friend of mine; I called her when Jeff called me. We worked on Reka for two hours, did what we could to try and close the big hole,” Berg said. “She was just white from loss of blood and shock.”

For next 24 hours, Reka refused to come out of the closet at home. “She was hiding in the corner, wasn’t eating, not drinking,” Berg said. “Just today she got up.

In another flash email on Dec. 12, Berg reported that Reka was up and carrying around her “bone-y” and has her tail back up over her back, a sign of returning health.

Yet Berg is still extremely outraged that this even happened and doesn’t understand why hunters are allowed to hunt so close to such a large subdivision along a marked trailhead.

“Jeff and I, along with many of our friends, family, and children, have hiked this trail hundreds of times in the last four years,” Berg stated. “I do not think it is unreasonable to expect to hike with your dogs, off leash but within recall range, without fear of being shot and killed. Shouldn’t a person wielding a deadly weapon have to have a clear view of what he is shooting?

“I think it is time to make hunters and recreational shooters responsible for knowing what they are shooting. Hunters do not get a bad reputation for killing/consuming game, or defending their property or livestock. They have this reputation because of incidents like this, when dogs, cattle, or horses are mistakenly shot due to the hunter not having a clear view of what he is hunting.”

According to an email from the Colorado Division of Wildlife, hunters who make mistakes can be penalized with fines, suspension points against their license privileges, have their license suspended or even face a felony or misdemeanor depending upon the nature of the error.

“My anger is really high up there because every time I look at her and see her struggle, toss, turn and be uncomfortable, all I can think of is that they shot her and didn’t care,” she said. “There’s no legal recourse for them, not having a clear view. And they mistook the species they were shooting at. If you can’t tell a coyote from a fox from a dog, why are you shooting?”

However, the two men did offer to pay the veterinarian’s bill. “That only infuriates me more as it implies that there is some kind of ‘shared’ blame for them shooting my dog!” she states in an email.

From hearsay, Berg is learning that Reka’s is not an isolated incident. Most go unreported and many dogs die, Berg said. “These people go home and quietly deal with their grief. And nothing gets done and nothing gets said,”
she said. “I want people to know.”

According to Michael Seraphin, public information specialist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the case is under investigation. “The coyote hunters were legally hunting in an open area to hunting, about a half-mile from Teller County Road 51, Cedar Mountain Road, in a forested area of the Pike-San Isabel National Forest,” Seraphin writes in an email. “Colorado Parks and Wildlife is working with the Teller County Sheriff’s Office, the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s office and the U.S. Forest Service (on the matter).”

All parties are cooperating, Seraphin said. “Because this is an ongoing investigation, no additional information can be provided at this time,” Seraphin said.

Seraphin did add later that Reka’s “bright orange collar” was apparently inside out, making her harder to recognize immediately as a collared dog due to the fact the inside of the collar was white as is part of her coat.

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