On Tuesday, January 15 at about 11 a.m., two hunters returning from a day of hunting for feral pigs near Little Pine Mountain were involved in an incident with a trail runner and his dogs that resulted in one of the dogs being shot and killed. According to the Santa Barbara District Ranger Pancho Smith, pig hunting is allowed all year.
Though hunting or discharge of a firearm within the Santa Ynez Recreation Area has been banned since 1985, the hunters were on a section of the Santa Cruz Trail near Nineteen Oaks Camp, well outside the recreation area, when they encountered a medium-sized dog heading towards them. According to the hunters, the dog began to bark at them and appeared to be acting in an aggressive manner. In response, one of the hunters began to back up and stumbled, falling down. He later reported to Sheriff’s Deputy David Valadez that the dog continued to bark and act in an aggressive manner, frightening the hunters enough that one of them took aim and fired.
The dog, described as being of mixed-breed and weighing approximately 50 pounds, was one of two owned by a Carpinteria area man out for an early afternoon run from the Upper Oso Campground area. The dogs were off leash and ahead of him. The report indicated that the dogs were out of sight and perhaps a hundred yards ahead when the incident occurred. The runner reported hearing the dogs barking, then someone screaming, and finally the sound of a gunshot. Upon reaching the hunters he discovered that one of the dogs had been killed.
Both the hunters and trail runner then hiked out to Upper Oso and drove to the Santa Barbara District office of Los Padres Forest near Sage Hill Campground to report the incident. According to District Ranger Pancho Smith, the situation was not confrontational; rather, one in which both parties appeared to be completely distraught.
Smith stressed the need for hikers to ensure that they keep control of their dogs. Typically, when walking or running on trails with dogs off leash they should remain within sight and voice control of the owner to ensure the safety of others, provide protection for nearby wildlife, and keep incidents like this from happening.
While use or discharge of firearms within the Santa Ynez Recreation area is illegal, Smith noted that areas of the Los Padres Forest surrounding the recreation area are open to hunting during the appropriate seasons, including many popular hiking and riding trails such as Santa Cruz Trail.