Here’s the deal…let’s assume you are driving home early some morning…oh, about 3am or so, and suddenly out of nowhere a deer bolts in front of your vehicle and you hit it. Damn! For most of us our first concern is likely the extent of damage done done to the vehicle. Of course, as compassionate adults, if the deer is still alive you most certainly will have some concern for the critter who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, at least as far as you are concerned.
But that’s not what happened a few days ago near Foley, Minnesota. No, instead April Weiser hit a deer with her car and that’s when the compassionate nature of this veterinary technician took over. Rather than let the animal die in the ditch, she hoisted its 90–pound body into the back seat of her auto and sped off for help. She drove 80 miles with a roommate, Tara Miller, to the Twin Cities to take the injured deer to the Wildlife Rehababilitation Center in Roseville. Even though the report did not state for certain, it appears likely that by now the extent of the deer’s injuries would require the deer to be euthanized.
Okay, before we go on with this story let’s examine it from a sportsman’s perspective. In Minnesota, as well as in many other states I suspect, it is illegal to terminate the life of an injured deer unless you are licensed and it is during deer hunting season. That means that if you hit a deer with your truck and it is still in the ditch kicking…you had best call for a law enforcement officer to handle the matter. Even if you have the capability to end the deer’s life and suffering…you could be ticketed for taking such action. In fact, it is my understanding that more than likely if a conservation officer gets involved you will be ticketed if those actions were taken without law enforcement involvement.
Of course, Ms Weiser wasn’t looking to do the logical thing…instead, her do-good mentality kicked in and she acted in the “compassionate” way. She was labeled by the wildlife officer as a “good Samaritan” despite the fact her response actually broke Minnesota law.
Hmm… Now I find this quite interesting. What these ladies did was clearly a violation of Minnesota law…yet, because they were “good Samaritans” no charges will be filed. And why? Because NOBODY TOLD THEM OTHERWISE. They were ignorant of the law that required them NOT to transport wildlife without permission. They did a good and thing…went to extremes in doing what they thought was right…so we [DNR] will look the other way this time and publicize it so everybody learns from their mistaken judgment.
Quite frankly I’m troubled by this story on many levels. First is the fact that the Minnesota DNR won’t charge these ladies for their actions. Sportsmen have been told repeatedly that we must be thoroughly familiar with the law because ignorance is no excuse. So, is the DNR holding a hunting licensed-carrying sportsman to a higher standard than an naive person motivated merely by good intentions? Furthermore, what makes her actions of doing what she thinks is best any different than if a sportsman pulled a gun out of the trunk and quickly ended the deer’s misery? Both actions are clearly wrong and a violation of law…but I suspect that the DNR would handle the two scenarios much differently.
I’m disappointed with officials with the Minnesota DNR for making any distinctions in their interpretation. Quite honestly, a wildlife officer is expected to uphold the law (or the administrative rule) the very way it appears on the books. The legislature makes the laws…law enforcement carries out the enforcement activities of those laws…and the courts make any interpretations of whether it is appropriate or not. When wildlife officers start making actions that can cause the public to question the fairness in which they carry out their responsibilities…then I believe they are venturing down a very slippery slope, so to speak.
On a different level, perhaps a better example would have been made if charges were filed for the violation. Let’s face it, the ridiculousness of having an injured deer in the back seat of a car traveling down the highway is totally insane. What if that deer suddenly had a burst of energy and went berserk thrashing around while these ladies were traveling down the highway to the Twin Cities? It certainly could have happened…and those actions then could have jeopardized lives beyond the deer’s alone if an accident would have resulted.
When people violate the law…irrespective of whether their intentions were good or bad…they need to answer to their actions if they were not appropriate. The Minnesota DNR has now set precedent by forgiving the stunt of a pair of do-gooders who were merely ignorant of the law. In the process, they have also all but proven to us sportsmen that if we went to such extremes involved with a similar scenario…the same blind eye would likely not be turned. Personally, I’m disappointed because I would have expected better decisions from this agency.
© 2006 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.