Monday, December 04, 2006

Unhealthy Appetites: Deer and Damage to Crops

John Carlson had a pretty extensive article in the Sunday Register about one producer's struggle with protecting his crop of nursery trees from deer. As we've been noticing, there's an increasing population of the critters, and sometimes they can and do eat nursery stock and corn.

It seems that the owner of a tree farm near Tipton has gotten frustrated with what he sees as the Department of Natural Resources' inadequate response to his complaints about the deer damaging his nursery stock. As something of a riposte, he's taken to carrying a rifle and shooting the critters every now and again as the spirit moves him. He's been issued a summons but he believes that he's on pretty solid authority in his course of action, and he relies on State v. Ward, 152 N.W. 501 (Iowa 1915) as his backstop.

The DNR does not seem to be overly impressed with the tree farm owner, saying he qualifies for a program that would issue him permits to destroy deer if he comes up with $1,000 worth of damage. He isn't interested, and looks forward to his day in court in Tipton on March 19 of next year.

I may make time in my schedule for a road trip that day. It should prove interesting to follow this case.

Interestingly, the case of State v. Ward he relies on says much about the defense of necessity, which was not allowed by the lower court. And that is why the case was reversed and remanded.

Ward does not set out some sort of general rule of conduct that all must adhere to, or allot rights and responsibilities as the tree grower would like. It merely points to the fact that a defendant in such cases could advance justification of the killing so as to avoid substantial injury to his property. It specifically does not rule on what the outcome might be if the deer was not in the very act of destruction of property at the time of the shooting.

Stay tuned.


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