Tuesday, January 31st, 2023
Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

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Officials seek charges in shooting of hunting dogs

Kalkaska, Mich. – Two downstate men could face criminal charges
after DNR officials believe they recently shot and killed two
hunting dogs in southern Kalkaska County.

Jon Otto was legally hunting coyotes with a pack of seven Walker
fox hounds in Kalkaska County’s Pere Marquette State Forest in late
September when he heard two shots fired and his hounds go silent,
DNR officials said.

“When (Otto) hadn’t discovered the dogs had been shot yet he
encountered this vehicle … and something just didn’t feel right
with him,” Lt. Creig Grey, a DNR Law Enforcement Division district
supervisor, told Michigan Outdoor News.

Otto briefly spoke with the men, who denied any knowledge of the
incident, then Otto to look for his dogs.

“As he was leaving them … he looked in his rearview and he was
able to obtain a plate number but he was one digit off,” Grey
said.

When he found the hounds, two were dead and their radio collars
were buried.

“I think (the subjects) knew what they were doing, and I think
they were trying to buy some time to hide what happened and get out
of the area,” Grey said.

Otto then spoke with another group of houndsmen hunting bears in
the area, and those hunters relayed the incident and description of
the vehicle over a two-way radio to spread the word, Grey said.

Another man and his wife located the vehicle a short distance
away where (the driver) talked to the young men while his wife
photographed the vehicle, license plate, and the suspects.

The photos were

“instrumental in leading us to the right spot,” Grey said.

DNR investigators tracked the vehicle to the southeastern side
of the state where conservation officers interviewed the suspects
and allegedly obtained a confession.

The men allegedly attempted to explain the shooting, although
Grey would not disclose the details, citing the ongoing
investigation.

“They did give a reason for what happened, but in my opinion
there isn’t justification,” he said, adding that there was a
shotgun, handgun, and rifle involved in the incident.

Otto, of Kalkaska, did not return messages for comment.

Kalkaska County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Kirk Metzger said
criminal charges for the incident would vary depending on a variety
of factors, including how the guns were used, who shot them, the
intent of the suspects, and other variables.

“I know killing an animal like a dog could be upwards of a
felony. There could also be some misdemeanor charges for firearms
that could play into it,” he said, adding that Otto likely would be
entitled to restitution to reimburse him for the dogs.

Investigators must finalize reports on witness statements,
suspect interviews, and evidence gleaned from the dogs’ bodies
before charges are issued, Metzger said.

The DNR encourages anyone with information about any
conservation violation to call the DNR’s Report All Poaching line
at (800) 292-7800. Information can be left anonymously. Cash
rewards are sometimes offered for information that leads to the
arrest of violators.

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