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Oso hiker's death a rare accident

Officials say the Oso woman's death is the first time in decades a non-hunter has died in a hunting accident.

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By Jackson Holtz
Herald Writer
OSO -- Pamela Almli died doing what she loved most: hiking.
The 54-year-old Oso woman was killed Saturday by a 14-year-old Concrete boy in an apparent hunting mishap. The teenager reportedly mistook the woman for a bear, Skagit County sheriff's officials said.
Almli's death on Sauk Mountain is the first time a non-hunter has died in a hunting incident in Washington within the past 25 years, said state Fish and Wildlife Capt. Bill Hebner.
"I can only imagine a lot of lives were changed forever as a result of this accident," Hebner said. "It's a tragedy from every perspective."
The Skagit County Sheriff's Office is investigating with Fish and Wildlife officers.
Almli was hiking with a friend. She apparently stopped on a trail about 10:30 a.m. to put something into her backpack when the boy fired one shot, Skagit County sheriff's Chief Will Reichardt said.
The teenage hunter was with his older brother, 16, Reichardt said.
"Their grandfather drove them to the mountain and was waiting in the vehicle about a quarter-mile away when the shooting occurred," he said.
State law does not currently require juveniles to have an adult with them while hunting, Hebner said.
However, "We would recommend that any young person be accompanied by an experienced hunting adult," he said.
The Fish and Wildlife agency has asked the Legislature to impose minimum age requirements for lone hunters.
A similar law was in effect until the mid-90s, when it fell off the books, Hebner said.
Sheriff's investigators on Monday met with Skagit County prosecutors, Reichardt said.
Additional investigation is required before a decision can be made whether to pursue criminal charges, he said. No timetable was given for when that decision will be made.
"All I can say is that it never should have happened," Almli's husband, William, told the Skagit Valley Herald. They have a son and three grandchildren.
"How do you confuse a woman with a bear?" he asked.
Almli's motto was hike, bike, kayak and ski, her family said in an obituary placed in The Herald.
She loved the outdoors and could name every mountain in the Cascades, the family said.
"Pam had a spunky personality. She loved being alive and was determined to live life to its fullest. Pam loved her family, friends, pets and flowers. A light has gone out of our lives. We will miss her," the obituary said.
The accident shouldn't discourage hikers and others from enjoying the woods, Hebner said.
"This is a very rare event," he said. "It's still safe to use the woods and hike and do other recreational activities."
Hikers do need to be aware that they share the woods with hunters, Hebner said.
Wearing brightly colored clothing and being aware of surroundings is always a good idea, he said.
In the past decade, eight people have died in Washington in hunting mishaps, a rate of less than one per year.
Still, Almli's death was the first time someone hiking has died in a hunting-related shooting in the state in recent memory, Hebner said.
"It's very unusual for this to happen," he said. "Typically, a hunting fatality involves someone in the hunting party."
Bear hunting season started Friday and remains open until Nov. 15.
All hunters born after Jan. 1, 1972, are required to successfully complete at least 10 hours of a hunter education class and carry a hunting license.
The boy had passed the prerequisite hunting curriculum and was properly licensed, Hebner said.
Joe Miele, president of a nonprofit group called the Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting, said hunting accidents happen far more frequently than reported.
"As long as they're hunting, there are going to be hunting accidents," he said. "I grieve for this poor kid as well as for the victim. We don't take any glee in it. It's a tragedy and our hearts go out to everyone involved."
Information from the Associated Press is included in this report.
Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437 or

Safety tips
Each year there are 10 to 15 hunting-related shooting incidents in Washington. Hunters between age 10 and 29 have more incidents than all other hunters, according to state data.
Here are some tips for staying safe in the woods during hunting season.
For hikers and others:
Wear brightly colored clothing.
Be aware of your surroundings.
Making noise while hiking keeps bears away and alerts hunters to your presence.
For hunters:
Use binoculars, not just a rifle scope, to identify the target before firing.
Treat every firearm as if it is loaded.
Never handle any firearm if you are unfamiliar with it.
Always unload and open the action before handing a firearm to anyone.
Source: Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife">
Story tags » OsoAccidents (general)

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