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Wild birds and beasts. The word includes all game birds and game animals.

The state, in its sovereign power, owns game for the benefit of the general public. The only manner in which a private individual can acquire ownership in game is by possessing it lawfully such as by hunting and killing it under a license.

Generally, every individual has the right to hunt and take game in any public place where his or her presence is lawful, so long as the person neither violates statutory regulations nor injures or infringes upon the rights of others. A hunter does not acquire an absolute right to a wild animal by mere pursuit alone, and the individual forfeits any potential ownership by abandoning the chase prior to capture. The exclusive right to hunt or take game on privately owned property vests in the owner or his or her grantees. This property right of the owner is limited by the right of the state to regulate and preserve the game for public use. A suit for Trespass may be brought against one who interferes with another's right to hunt.

A statute that proscribes the hunting of game without a license, and that requires the payment of a fee for such license, constitutes a proper exercise of the Police Power of the state.

Game laws govern the killing or taking of birds and beasts. Game wardens ordinarily can arrest violators, seize illegally taken game, bring actions for trespass, or institute prosecutions for violations of the game laws.

Under a number of game laws, it is a penal offense to kill or take certain types of game in certain seasons of the year or without a license. A hunter is required to exhibit a license when properly called on to do so, and it constitutes a legal violation if the person cannot do so.

In a situation where an individual has lawfully obtained possession of game—enclosing and caring for them as domestic animals—the person can kill one or more of them if necessary for care and management or for humane purposes. In addition, an individual might be justified in killing game in violation of the law if it were necessary for the protection of persons or property. It sometimes constitutes an offense to export game beyond the limits of the nation or state in which it was killed or captured, to ship it for sale in a certain manner, or to absent certain information upon the package.

The United States has entered into treaties with other countries, including Great Britain and Mexico, for the protection and preservation of migratory birds and game animals. It constitutes an offense to violate statutes that were enacted to implement such treaties. For example, a regulatory statute might limit the number of birds that can be killed by any individual each day, and it would be an offense to exceed such limit.

The federal government, subject to the consent of the state, can establish a game refuge for the protection of game and migratory birds and proscribe all hunting in the vicinity. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is administered by the Interior Department, to conserve and preserve fish and game in wildlife refuges and game ranges.


Endangered Species Act; Fish and Fishing.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006

GAME. Birds and beasts of a wild-nature, obtained by fowling and hunting. Bac. Ab. h. t.; Animals; Ferae natural.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
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