The conservation service is investigating two licenced bear hunters from the Lower Mainland after a dog was shot June 15 near Squamish.
"Our officers have been investigating and we have identified two suspects and those suspects have been interviewed and some evidence has been seized," said conservation officer Chris Doyle.
"The investigation will continue and a report to crown counsel will be submitted recommending charges once the investigation is complete."
If charged, the two men will likely face a fine and may have restrictions put on their hunting licences in the future. Under the Wildlife Act they could also face jail time if found guilty, though that outcome is unlikely.
Doyle said there is always high concern in incidents like this where one animal is "mistaken" for another. That's a real concern for the dead dog's owner, as well.
"That is the one thing that came out of the investigation is that I could have easily been killed there if they had shot 10 seconds earlier," said Anthony Catton.
"My dog was up on a hill in clear view, she was just standing there and they just picked up and shot her."
Jemma, a six-year-old black Australian kelpie Lab cross whose happy-go-lucky visits were loved by many in the Function Junction area of Whistler, was wearing her trademark bandana as well as a bright orange safety collar and an orange beaded Mexican necklace when she was shot while not far from the Squamish Riverside Campsite on the Squamish Valley Road.
"It was the last day, the last hour of bear hunting season," said Catton adding that neither he nor any of the other campers he spoke to knew it was hunting season.
Jemma, and Catton were out for their stroll around 5 p.m. when the shooting happened. "I went behind a bush and the dog came with me then it went out from behind the bush and walked up into a clearing on a hill and I heard two loud discharges of a gun and I looked back and my dog was standing on the hill with pretty much her insides hanging out.
"It took about 15 to 20 minutes for her to die, but she wasn't in pain, that was the biggest thing. She just lay down and I got to spend that time with her."
In Jemma's obituary Catton said: "As she lay there broken and suffering with her life slowly fading away, Jemma managed to playfully roll upon her back, her paws up, asking sweetly to share in one last, loving belly rub before she was gone. It spoke volumes in the knowledge she held within her beautiful soul that nothing is as important in this life as our ability to show love. It can transmute even the greatest moments of sadness."
Catton spoke to the shooters at the time but said he was more concerned about spending time with Jemma that anything else.
"The biggest thing I want out of this is for people to realize that if they are going to hunt they need to know what they are shooting at," said Catton.
"It is a tragic thing and I am left with the thoughts of this in my mind for a long time.
"She was a special dog, everyone in Function knew her. She was the type of dog that would carry my groceries from the grocery store for me. She would go into all the stores and get cookies. I have had a lot of people grieving with me.
"My dog was everything. It definitely affects you in many ways... You come out of a store and you expect your dog to be sitting there waiting for you."
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