The debate has raged for years between landowners, wildlife agencies and, occasionally, the judicial and legislative branches in different states: when a landowner erects a high fence on his property and captures otherwise wild deer, or moves deer into the enclosure, are they his property or do they still belong under the purview of the state wildlife agency?
Ask any agency official or, for that matter, judicial scholar and it’s a tricky subject. There is no clear-cut answer, or it at least seems there’s nothing clear cut.
Landowners will say they have an absolute right to do what they want on their property. If that means whatever’s inside their fence when it’s put up is theirs, including deer or other game animals, then they become theirs to sell, breed, kill or whatever.
State wildlife officials argue the converse, saying wildlife belongs to everyone and not an individual, even in an enclosure.
It’s definitely not clear-cut. Now, Indiana’s attorney general’s office is wading into the fight in the Hoosier State about its enclosures. Legal rulings have batted the case back and forth like a pinball.
The Indianapolis Star reported that the AG’s office issued a brief opposing a ruling last year in favor of the landowners with enclosures. Indiana has just four but others are interested in the financially-lucrative deer farming business.
The Star’s report said: The attorney general’s office is appealing the Harrison County case, saying that removing DNR’s authority to regulate hunting on the preserves would create “a regulation-free environment where individuals can hunt without a license, out of season, with weapons not typically used for hunting and with blatant disregards for Indiana’s safety and ethical hunting standards.”
The brief says that if the Harrison County case stands, a preserve owner “could maintain any number of deer on even very small tracts of land for hunting purposes,” something that raises ethical concerns about whether the deer have a sporting chance.
“The legislature did not intend such a drastic and absurd result,” the brief said.
What do you think about this situation? We’d love to hear your feedback.