Does a person who pursues a wild animal have a vested ownership right to that animal?
No. Pursuit of a wild animal vests no property or right in a huntsman; and even pursuit, accompanied with wounding, is equally ineffectual for that purpose, unless the animal be actually taken.
LexisNexis Headnote 2: Personal Property, Rights of Possessors Pursuit alone vests no property or right in a huntsman; and even pursuit, accompanied with wounding, is equally ineffectual for that purpose, unless the animal be actually taken.
While plaintiff was out fox hunting, he located a wild fox and he and his dogs began pursuit. Defendant, apparently knowing the fox was being chased by plaintiff, intervened in the hunt and then shot and killed the animal himself. Plaintiff brought an action against defendant for trespass, and the trial court ruled in his favor. Defendant appealed, arguing that plaintiff had no rights in the fox merely because he was chasing it.
Mere pursuit, or even wounding of the animal, did not give plaintiff a legal right to the fox. Instead, it became the property of defendant, who intercepted and killed him. The appellate court found that, however uncourteous or unkind defendant's conduct was toward plaintiff, it produced no injury or damage for which a legal remedy could be applied. The court did not opine as to whether the defendant’s conduct was uncourteous or unkind to the fox.