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Trooper tied to hunting mishap

Norton woman shot in abdomen; he mistook her two dogs for deer

The hunter who shot a 66-year-old woman in Norton on Saturday after apparently mistaking her dogs for deer is a Massachusetts state trooper, a State Police spokesman said yesterday.

The spokesman, David Procopio, confirmed that the hunter is a trooper.

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Norton police identified him as John Bergeron, 50, of Norton, and identified the woman as Cheryl Blair, also of Norton.

“It was an accidental shooting,’’ Procopio said in a telephone interview, adding that Bergeron immediately called 911 and administered medical aid to Blair while waiting for emergency personnel to arrive. She was reported in fair condition late yesterday at a Rhode Island hospital.

But Blair’s son, Nicholas, 33, said in a phone interview from his mother’s home that he believes Bergeron acted negligently by hunting when it was getting dark.

Nicholas Blair said that he went to the scene after learning what happened and based on what he saw, “It was too dark, and it was gross negligence.’’

He added that Bergeron did the right thing by staying at the scene and trying to help his mother.

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“Does that vindicate him? No,’’ he said.

Authorities said Blair was shot while walking two of her dogs on a wooded path off Oak Street shortly before 5 p.m.

Sunset on Saturday came at 4:23 p.m., Procopio said, meaning that Bergeron was required to stop hunting at 4:53 p.m., according to state regulations. The shooting occurred a few minutes before that deadline, according to Procopio.

Authorities said Bergeron, an experienced hunter with a valid permit, will not face criminal charges in connection with the shooting, which has been ruled an accident.

A call to a phone number listed for Bergeron was not returned yesterday.

Norton police Lieutenant Todd Jackson said yesterday that Blair was shot once in the abdomen with a black-powder rifle. She was taken to Rhode Island Hospital, where she remained yesterday.

Procopio said that Blair’s injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.

Nicholas Blair said his parents own about 5 acres of land in the area and that the shooting occurred on their property, about 250 meters from the back of their house.

He said the family got a phone call from emergency workers saying his mother had been injured.

“When we got there she was lying on her side. I thought maybe she broke her hip,’’ he said. Then, “I saw the bullet wound.’’

He said that his mother was in shock after the shooting but doing well yesterday under the circumstances.

Oak Street is near the Alice Clapp Smalley Wildlife Preserve, a nature refuge of about 37 acres.

Authorities could not say yesterday whether hunting is allowed only on the preserve or on the adjoining properties as well.

Nicholas Blair said Bergeron shot his mother at least 1 mile away from the preserve. He said she was walking two of her five golden retrievers at the time, and that she walks that route at least twice a day.

Jackson, of the Norton police, said that the shooting occurred in the area of 98 Oak St., about one-quarter mile into the woods and “a safe distance from any buildings.’’

A regional property database for parts of Bristol County, which includes Norton, lists Cheryl and James E. Blair as the owners of a home at that address.

Jackson said he could not confirm whose property Bergeron and Blair were on at the time of the shooting. He said it was his understanding that Bergeron was allowed to be in the area.

Procopio also could not say if Blair was on the preserve when she was shot because there were no signs of any kind posted in the area.

“Based on discussions we’ve had with other hunters, it’s an area that is frequently used by hunters,’’ he said.

Nicholas Blair said that Bergeron lives near the location, and property records indicate that the trooper owns a home at 44 Oak St.

Authorities said Bergeron had seen a deer earlier in the day in the general area of the incident. Bergeron later fired one shot when he thought he saw a deer tail, striking Blair, police said.

Procopio said that was the only shot Bergeron fired all afternoon.

The deer hunting season for 2011 for the weapons category that includes the rifle that Bergeron was using ended on Saturday, according to state records.

He is not being placed on leave from his duties, because the shooting was accidental and it happened on his personal time, Procopio said.

“The accidental shooting was in no way connected to his job responsibilities,’’ he said.

Bergeron is assigned to Troop C, which covers Central Massachusetts.

The accident is being investigated by environmental and Norton police, as well as state troopers attached to the office of Bristol District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter.

“We express our hope for a full and speedy recovery to the victim who was injured,’’ Procopio said.

Globe correspondent Alexander C. Kaufman contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.

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