MISSOULA — Missoula County Sheriff’s Office has ended its investigation of a dog killed by a hunter who allegedly believed it was a wolf on Sunday, and passed the matter on to state and federal wildlife managers.
“There is no criminal activity here, and this is out of our jurisdiction,” sheriff’s spokeswoman Paige Pavalone said Monday.
“We don’t have any witnesses and we’re not investigating the situation any further.”
The incident has been forwarded to the state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the U.S. Forest Service. Spokespeople for both agencies initially thought the matter would be a criminal matter for the sheriff’s office.
Missoula resident Layne Spence reported the killing of his dog, “Little Dave,” to the sheriff’s office on Sunday afternoon. Spence told a deputy he was cross-country skiing on a road above the Lee Creek campground with his three malamute dogs when a hunter shot one of them on the road. According to the deputy’s report, Spence said Little Dave was wearing a collar with a light when it was shot about 20 yards in front of him.
“The hunter resumed fire and shot approximately four more times, killing the dog,” Pavalone quoted from the deputy’s report.
Spence told the deputy the hunter approached him and said he thought the dog was a wolf. He said the hunter asked if there was anything he could do, but Spence said he was so distraught he told the man to leave. Spence told the deputy the hunter did not make any threatening gestures toward him, and he knew the hunter was shooting at the dog.
Spence told the deputy the man was wearing camoflage with a hunter orange vest and was pulling an orange sled. He told the deputy the man had a black rifle that appeard to be semiautomatic, but “didn’t believe it was an assault rifle,” Pavalone said, quoting the report.
The deputy confirmed the dog was wearing a lighted collar and was shot at least twice, in the neck and rear leg.
“We’re not taking any position or stance,” Pavalone said of the decision to hand the incident to FWP and the Forest Service. “It involved hunting, so it’s out of our bounds.”