On Sunday morning, Willow Wilson heard what sounded like a gunshot. She didn't realize it signified the death of Earl, her pet pot-bellied pig.
It's hunting season so the sound wasn't unusual to hear in the rural area where she lives in Lac Ste. Anne County. Wilson didn't see anything out of the ordinary when she looked around their property near Mayerthorpe, Alta., 120 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.
It wasn't until later when her partner Tex Schar returned home that they realized something was amiss.
"It would be very unusual for Earl not to greet us when we came home," Wilson said about her four-year-old pet pig. "He was more like a dog than anything. A really close family friend."
Earl wasn't in his pen when Schar checked there. After checking a nearby field, he discovered a couple of pools of blood staining dried crops and snow, along with fresh tire tracks that came within 65 metres of their home.
On Monday evening, the couple joined RCMP officers in identifying Earl's remains where they were found four kilometres away, they said.
Their pet's body had been butchered and its ears were missing.
Schar and Wilson had suspected that Earl was dead but seeing the brutal evidence brought feelings of anger and sadness.
"It was tough. We definitely choked back tears, that's for sure," said Schar.
"He doesn't deserve it at all. Not this demise," added Wilson. "It's a brutal way to end a friendship."
Earl's big personality made him a standout among the various animals — including cats and a horse — that lived on the acreage.
"He was an awesome pet. He had a personality-plus, he was always outside. When we were outside, he was with us all the time," said Schar. "We had friends over, he would come and introduce himself, touching every heart."
Both Schar and Wilson hope whoever is responsible for their pet's death will turn themselves into RCMP.
"This shouldn't be happening," said Wilson. "People shouldn't have to be in fear because of trigger-happy people that just shoot whatever they feel like shooting."
Close to three years ago, Lac St Anne County discontinued a wild boar cull program. Bounty was exchanged for the ears of the animals, which are viewed as an invasive pest in Alberta, causing damage to property and crops and endangering people and animals.
RCMP confirm they are investigating the death of the pig, with potential charges including hunting in a dangerous manner, hunting on occupied land and use of firearms around buildings.