On Wednesday the Senate Fish, Game and Forestry Committee voted in favor of a bill, S. 223, that would create a self-defense claim for people who committed gaming violations. The proposal would also cover instances when someone is protecting a domesticated animal, such as a hunting dog.
Others wondered if changing the law would give individuals an excuse to needlessly shoot bears, alligators, or imposing wild turkeys in anticipation of a future threat.
Sen. Creighton Coleman, a Fairfield County Democrat from the 17th Senate District, told the panel about a constituent two years ago who received a citation for shooting a bear that had walked up to his tree stand during deer hunting season.
Committee chairman Sen. Chip Campsen, R-43rd District, said he’s lost several retrievers to alligators over the years while hunting in the Ace Basin.
No one was arguing that pet owners should helplessly watch a wild predator kill their dog for fear of being charged with a game violation.
But Campsen said the bill could be fine-tuned before it gets to the Senate floor for a vote to specify a shooting is allowed only if a large wild animal presented an imminent threat to a pet or hunting dog.
“At least we could deal with the issue, ‘There’s a gator in the pond and he’s going to be a threat to my dog sometime down the road, so I’m going to go take that alligator,’” said the Charleston lawmaker. He said the judicial system will act as a “safety net” on the issue, and that there are limits to how many circumstances the Legislature can anticipate.
Under the proposal, people who kill an alligator or “big game,” defined as a white tailed deer, wild turkey, or black bear, must hand its carcass over to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. If they instead keep the carcass, they can be fined $2,000.