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Where a wild animal is brought under the control of a person so that actual possession is practically inevitable, a vested property interest in it accrues which cannot be divested by another's intervening and killing it.
Plaintiff owners mortally wounded a wolf, and, as they were approaching the attacked animal to gain possession, the defendant possessor interfered by delivering a shot that ended the animal's life. The defendant took the body as his property and retained it to the damage of the plaintiffs. Plaintiffs instituted an action to recover damages as a result of the defendant’s wrongful taking of the property. The district court entered judgment in favor the plaintiffs. Defendant appealed.
Under the circumstances, could the defendant be held liable for wrongful taking of property?
The court affirmed the judgment. The evidence strongly established all the facts requisite to ownership of the wolf by the plaintiff owners. It was clear that the plaintiff owners were in vigorous pursuit of the game and that in a few moments they would have had actual possession, without the interference. Where a wild animal was brought under the control of a person so that actual possession was practically inevitable, a vested property interest in it accrued which could not be divested by another's intervening and killing it. The court held that the verdict was properly directed and the judgment properly rendered thereon.