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Ask a Conservation Officer: What can I do if I'm attacked by an animal?

Q: What can I do if a big animal like a bear, coyote or wolf is charging me while ruffed grouse hunting? Am I able to defend myself? What if my dog is attacked?

A: People have the right to defend themselves and other people against an attack by an animal; however, that threat must be immediate and legitimately life threatening. In other words, if a bear or wolf is charging you and you have no other option but to shoot it to defend yourself or another person, you may shoot it. In addition, you must report the taken animal to a Conservation Officer immediately. Coyotes are unprotected, meaning that they may be shot to protect life or property.

Under Minnesota State Statute, a person may take a bear at any time to protect that person's property. Dogs are considered property, so a bear attacking your dog would be legal to shoot as long as you report the incident to a Conservation Officer within 48 hours.

Until late 2014, Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin had the legal authority to manage wolves within their respective states. During that time in Minnesota, it was legal to take a wolf if it was destroying property i.e. livestock, domestic pets, etc. However, since wolves are now again federally protected and no longer managed at the state level, it would be a violation of federal law to take a wolf if it was attacking your property, including your dog.

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Conservation Officer Anthony Elwell is field training with Matt Miller, a Minnesota Conservation Officer with the Lake Superior Marine Unit.