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About Ellen F. Rosenblum
Attorney General Hardy Myers today announced that the State of Oregon will appeal yesterday's Clackamas County Circuit Court ruling that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) must return a deer to a Molalla couple.
Oregon statutes provide that no one other than ODFW, or one of its licensees, may lawfully possess wildlife, including deer.
"We believe this deer is the same under the law as any property police may seize from a person who cannot lawfully possess the item," Myers explained. "The logic of the court's ruling is that police could be compelled to return stolen property or other property to people who are not entitled by law to possess it. The impact of the ruling potentially extends beyond this wildlife case."
Under Oregon law, it is illegal to remove wildlife from the wild or hold wildlife in captivity without permission from ODFW. The deer had been taken from the wild and held by a Molalla couple at their home without ODFW's authorization until Sept. 12, 2007 when Oregon State Police, acting under authority of a search warrant, took the animal into state custody. Yesterday's ruling came after the couple filed a motion in court seeking return of the deer.
"This ruling may make it more difficult to protect fish and wildlife against unlawful taking," said Oregon State Police Captain Walt Markee. Markee heads the Oregon State Police's Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Unit.
"While the focus has been on one doe, the ruling significantly affects management of all Oregon fish and wildlife," said Ron Anglin, ODFW's Wildlife Division Administrator. "We are concerned that this ruling opens the door to people removing wildlife from the wild. If a district attorney chooses not to prosecute, an individual will simply get the animal back. That's not good for Oregon's wildlife," Anglin said.
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