If a bear dies in the woods…

Can a Minnesotan keep it?


Score one for the bear carcass!

The Minnesota Court of Appeals today overturned a lower court ruling that in the state of Minnesota, you cannot keep the carcass of a bear that dies on your property.

It ruled in the case of farmer R. James Swenson, who found the bear on his property in Fifty Lakes, Minnesota in November 2007 and took it to a taxidermist to have it stuffed. The Department of Natural Resources, however, confiscated the bear, saying it’s illegal to possess wild game, even when dead, apparently.

Swenson acknowledged that while Minnesota’s laws prohibit possession of wild game, when a bear dies naturally, it no longer is a “wild animal” subject to the law. It’s merely a dead thing.

The court agreed, saying:


They no longer are “living creatures” subject to the state’s ownership or the attendant restrictions on private possession. They also do not fall within the provisions of the game and fish laws that govern the taking of wild animals and, consequently, are not subject to the licensing and tagging requirements of those provisions. Accordingly, the game and fish laws do not restrict a private individual’s possession of the carcasses of wild animals that died naturally.

Minnesota treats this issue differently than Wisconsin, however. In Wisconsin, you can’t keep a carcass.