NEWPORT, N.C. (WNCT) – Uncle Ray’s ribs are not as exposed as they were when he first came into the shelter a few weeks ago.

The five-year-old treeing walker hound was found in the Croatan National Forest, his body emaciated, with his ribs, hips and other bones visible through his fur.

Rachel Hardin, the Carteret County shelter manager, said the dog had been out in the wild by himself without any food for quite some time, and it is not an unusual occurrence with hunting dogs this time of year.

In fact, there’s been an influx of hunting dogs brought to the county shelter, always malnourished and emaciated.

“They could just not be good hunting dogs anymore,” said Hardin. “Or unfortunately some dogs do get loose and away from the hunters who aren’t able to find them, so they end up being alone in the woods, and people find them, and they get brought in.”

While hunting dogs are usually conditioned to be lean, animal control officer Tommy Bell said there is a noticeable difference between a fit dog and a starved dog.

“A conditioned dog is very lean,” said Bell. “You can count their ribs, but not all of their ribs. But a starved dog, it’s going to be their skeleton. You’re going to start with the bones and the skull.”

Bell said a few bad hunters can ruin the reputations of the responsible ones.

“Basically, it’s the irresponsible hunter,” said Bell. “They take the dogs to the rural areas and drop them. And these people don’t realize they could be charged with felony abandonment.”

The shelter asks people who longer want their hunting dog to bring it to them instead of turning it loose.

Uncle Ray’s been on a food regimen, eating three meals per day to gain back the weight.

He’s already put on about five pounds of weight, and the shelter manager said about five more will be needed, and then he’ll be ready for adoption.

The cost to adopt Uncle Ray will be $75. He is already neutered, heart worm tested and microchipped.