REDMOND — Every morning Stephen Richardson said he would take his two huskies on four to seven mile hikes in Central Oregon.

He would let his two dogs, Mateo and Maverick, off leash. They liked to run up to 50 yards ahead — especially if looking for squirrels or jackrabbits — and then return to Richardson when called.

But on New Year’s 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, Richardson said.

The area is filled with trails, about 16 miles north of Bend and 6 miles southwest of Eagle Crest Resort.

When Richardson heard the gunshots, he said he bolted through the snow blowing his dog whistle, screaming and clicking on all of the buttons on Mateo’s training collar.

“My heart sank,” Richardson said.

He found Mateo dead with four gunshot wounds. Then Richardson said he heard someone get into their car parked on the access road nearby and race off — though he never saw the person.

Footprints were visible around Mateo’s body, Richardson said, so he followed them back to a tree about 25 feet away where he found shell casings and a knee pad.

“There is no way at 25 feet that you can mistake a 65-pound red Siberian husky for a 40-pound coyote,” Richardson said.

The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office responded to the incident around 9 a.m. on Dec. 31, the agency wrote on Facebook.

A suspect or vehicle has not been found, the sheriff’s office said. The investigation is ongoing.

Anyone with information is asked to call 541-693-6911 and reference the case number: 21-72336.

Mateo’s family starts petition

Richardson said there were no signs warning visitors of potential hunters. But he said he was in an area “closed to all firearm discharge,” according to a Cline Buttes Recreation Area map.

Firearm restrictions differ across the Cline Buttes Recreation Area. A spokesperson with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife told McClatchy News they “assume (it) would be lawful to hunt” in some places in the area if a person has a hunting license, even though it is an area popular with dog walkers.

Those areas include northwestern parts of Cline Buttes, which Richardson said he was not in.

Instead, Richardson said, he was in an area marked orange near Juniper Trailhead.

His daughter Savanna Richardson started a petition to stop people from hunting in public hiking areas.

“Hunting in any public area is wrong and dangerous and risks people or even children getting shot,” she wrote. “We don’t want anyone to go through the pain and hurt we are going through right now.”

Stephen Richardson also wants the public to know when they are entering hunting areas after losing Mateo.

“I want awareness. I want signs to be posted up there that it is legal to be hunting and have traps out,” he said.

He also started a GoFundMe to cover the costs of Mateo’s cremation. Any money raised past their goal will go toward a reward for catching the person who shot their husky, he said.

Helena Wegner writes for the Charlotte Observer.

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