AGO 97-L-041.

Case Date:April 23, 1997
Court:North Dakota
North Dakota Attorney General Opinions 1997. AGO 97-L-041. OPINION 97-L-41April 23, 1997Honorable Gary Nelson State Senator 2970 158th Avenue SE Casselton, ND 58012 Dear Senator Nelson: Thank you for your letter regarding deer depredation problems. Specifically you ask: whose responsibility is it to care for the deer; to whom do the deer belong; is the burden of caring for the deer to fall on the shoulders of the few, or is it the general responsibility of all citizens of the state; and how far can farmers and ranchers go in protecting against the destruction of their property. I understand the importance of these problems to farmers and ranchers, especially because of the severe 1996-97 winter. In your letter you outline the concerns of farmers and ranchers about the welfare of the deer and their complaints relating to deer depredation such as deer eating or ruining livestock foodstuffs. N.D.C.C. § 20.1-01-03 provides: The ownership of and title to all wildlife within this state is in the state for the purpose of regulating the enjoyment, use, possession, disposition, and conservation thereof, and for maintaining action for damages as herein provided. Any person catching, killing, taking, trapping, or possessing any wildlife protected by law at any time or in any manner is deemed to have consented that the title thereto remains in this state for the purpose of regulating the taking, use, possession, and disposition thereof. The state, through the office of attorney general, may institute and maintain any action for damages against any person who unlawfully causes, or has caused within this state, the death, destruction, or injury of wildlife, except as may be authorized by law. The state has a property interest in all protected wildlife. This interest supports a civil action for damages for the unlawful destruction of wildlife by willful or grossly negligent act or omission. The director shall adopt by rule a schedule of monetary values of various species of wildlife, the values to represent the replacement costs of the wildlife and the value lost to the state due to the destruction or injury of the species, together with other material elements of value. In any action brought under this section, the schedule constitutes the measure of recovery for the wildlife killed or destroyed. The funds recovered must be deposited in the general fund, and devoted to the propagation and protection of desirable species of wildlife. The state's ownership interests are thereby limited to "regulating the enjoyment, use, possession, disposition, and conservation" of wildlife and to "maintaining action for damages" for the "willful or grossly...

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