Police say Norton Shores man thought neighbor’s dog was a coyote, shot it while drinking and hunting in backyard

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NORTON SHORES, Mich. -- A man is facing criminal charges after investigators say he shot an English setter while hunting in a blind in his backyard.

Though Mark Nelson says it was a mistake, officials say it was clear he had been drinking.

The dog, Bella, continues to recover and seems to be in good spirits after a vet had to remove her hind right leg. Police say Nelson, 61, claims he shot her because thought she was a coyote.

Bella's owner, Bill Kooi, says he was in his yard Oct. 20 firing up the tractor when he heard a gunshot, which is a common sound in rural Norton Shores.

“There's a fella that claims he was hunting, and shot and injured her leg,” Kooi says.

Moments later, he heard Bella yelping and saw her limping toward him.

The police report says it was clear Nelson had been drinking, that he had a strong order of alcohol coming from his breath, his speech was slurred, and he did not walk straight.

Meanwhile, Kooi rushed to Grand Rapids in an attempt to save Bella's life.

“The ones I want to thank are the emergency hospital in Grand Rapids for pets on Plainfield. They're the ones that really saved her life and stabilized her,” he said.

Kooi says Bella is just like his human children, and he sought several opinions, but it was clear her leg couldn't be saved.

He said the South Kent Veterinary Hospital in Caledonia stayed open late that night to remove the injured leg.

“It's hard on the family," Kooi said. "It's emotional, and she's frankly doing a lot better than I am."

Nelson told police he thought Bella was a coyote, that he's seen coyote on his property in all different colors. Police say Nelson had a bait pile 30 feet from his blind, and he was using a 12 gauge shotgun with a scope.

Nelson faces three misdemeanor charges, including careless use of a firearm, hunting too close to an occupied dwelling ,and excessive deer baiting.

Kooi tells us Bella has perseverance, that she's a rescue dog that won`t let anything get her down.

“She's doing really well, she's got another follow-up visit in about a week, and I don't anticipate anything after that she's doing really really well,” he said.

FOX 17 stopped by Mark Nelson's house, but no one would comment on the incident.

He's expected to turn himself in for arraignment on those misdemeanor charges next week.

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10 comments

  • Ghostie

    I really hate Gun toting pumpkin heads like the perpetrator in this article
    And drunken pumpkin heads are even worse!
    IMO how can you mistake that precious dog for a coyote?
    He must have been reaallly soused!
    Misdemeanor? Animals lives are worth more than that! Punish him long and hard for the rot he did- Next time he goes drinking and shooting it may very well be a human he hits! Then what?

      • Roger A DeVries

        Guns and drinking are against the law even if you are on your own property. This guy insults everyones intelligence by claiming to be a hunter. How do you mistake this dog for a coyote? I hope they give him the max!

        • Polish Princess

          Nelson has “seen coyote on his property in all different colors.” Besides drinking, it sounds like he’s been eating the magic mushrooms.

      • wisepati

        Granted the dog should have been on its own property. There are people out there that will hurt your dog. Besides it is the responsible thing to do, keep your dog on your own property to keep your dog safe.
        That being said it in NO way absolves the drunk ‘hunter’ from shooting this dog. He was drunk with a gun close to homes and had an illegal bait pile. What kind of a human being is that anyway? An irresponsible one that should not be able to own a gun again. He didn’t even know what he was shooting!

  • Polish Princess

    Mr. Kooi should know that dogs adapt really, really well to disabilities. They rise above it and don’t complain about their lot in life. Bella will be fine.

  • Real Hunter

    Take his guns and his gun rights away.
    The guy had the intent of poaching dear out season-
    If he can’t tell a dog from a coyote he should not be allowed to hunt.
    People that hunt coyotes or any critter just to kill something piss me off.
    Most hunters do not behave like this, we have respect, we are real hunters, not morons with guns.
    I was taught you eat what you kill or you don’t kill it. ( exception being

  • wisepati

    Well I sure hope they find and charge more of these so-called hunters. I see huge bait piles and people hunting close to houses. And lots of drinking. What a moron and a cruel one at that.

  • Real Hunter

    As a real hunter, and gun toting pumpkin head, this guy is full of BS!
    If he can’t tell the difference between a coyote and Setter then he needs stay far far away from guns and should banned from obtaining a hunting licence.
    And why shoot a coyote ? you don’t eat them!…do you?
    I was taught “you kill it you eat it”