Every morning Stephen Richardson said he would take his two huskies on four- to seven-mile hikes in Oregon.
He would leave his two dogs, Mateo and Maverick, off leash. They liked to run up to 50 yards ahead, especially if they were looking for squirrels or hares, and then come back to Richardson when called out.
But on New Years Eve, someone shot Mateo, a 4-year-old red Siberian husky, four times in the Cline Buttes recreation area. – a place where people can hike, mountain bike or camp, said Richardson.
The area is packed with trails, approximately 16 miles north of Bend and 6 miles southwest of Eagle Crest Resort.
When Richardson heard the gunshots he said he rushed through the snow hissing his dog, screaming and clicking all the buttons on Mateo’s training collar.
“My heart has collapsed,” said Richardson.
He found Mateo dead with four gunshot wounds. Then Richardson said he heard someone get into his parked car on the nearby access road and flee – although he had never seen the person.
Footprints were visible around Mateo’s body, Richardson said, so he followed them to a tree about 25 feet away where he found cartridge cases and a knee lifter.
“There’s no way at 25 feet to confuse a 65-pound red Siberian husky with a 40-pound coyote,” said Richardson.
The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office responded to the incident around 9 a.m. on December 31, the agency wrote on Facebook.
No suspects or vehicles were found, the sheriff’s office said. The investigation is ongoing.
Anyone with information is asked to call 541-693-6911 and quote the file number: 21-72336.
Mateo’s family launches a petition
Richardson said there were no signs warning visitors of potential hunters. But he said he was in an area “closed to any discharge of firearms,” according to a map of the Cline Buttes recreation area.
Gun restrictions differ at the Cline Buttes Recreation Area. A spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Fisheries and Wildlife told McClatchy News he “assumed it would be legal to hunt” in some places in the region if a person had a hunting license, although it is a popular area with dog walkers.
These areas include the northwestern parts of Cline Buttes, which Richardson said he was not.
Instead, Richardson said, he was in an orange marked area near Juniper Trailhead.
His daughter Savanna Richardson has started a petition to prevent people from hunting in public hiking areas.
“Hunting in any public space is wrong and dangerous and risks being shot by people or even children,” she wrote. “We don’t want anyone to go through the pain and the pain that we are going through right now.”
Stephen Richardson also wants the public to know when he enters the hunting areas after losing Mateo.
“I want awareness. I want signs posted up there stating that it is legal to hunt and have traps, ”he said.
He also started a GoFundMe to cover the costs of Mateo’s cremation. Any money raised beyond their goal will be used to reward the person who shot their husky, he said.