Defense Against Wildlife

“Can I shoot a coyote that’s in my yard?”

“Can I Shoot a rattlesnake in self defense

Statewide, anytime one takes wildlife in self defense or defence of another person, they have some burdens placed on them by the law. First, the actions must be immediately necessary. This is one of the elements of deadly force we use in justifying the use of deadly force against people.
Secondly, there is the burden to report the incident to the Arizona Game and Fish Department within 5 days. One also cannot keep any part of the animal unless the AZGFD specifically permits it.

A. Notwithstanding any other provision of this title, any person may take wildlife in self-defense or in defense of another person if it is immediately necessary to protect oneself or to protect the other person.
B. A person shall notify the department within five days after taking wildlife under this section. No animal or part of an animal taken pursuant to this section may be retained, sold or removed from the site without authorization from the department.

ARS 17-301.01. Protection from wildlife

Inside of any municipality (city, town, etc) there are additional rules given to us by Shannon’s Law. This adds the Reasonable Person requirement to discharging a firearm in defense against wildlife. If one does not use a firearm, then this does not apply.

A. A person who with criminal negligence discharges a firearm within or into the limits of any municipality is guilty of a class 6 felony.

C. This section does not apply if the firearm is discharged:

9. In self-defense or defense of another person against an animal attack if a reasonable person would believe that deadly physical force against the animal is immediately necessary and reasonable under the circumstances to protect oneself or the other person.

13-3107. Unlawful discharge of firearms; exceptions; classification; definitions

So for the majority of people, who live in city or town limits somewhere in the state, they would have to articulate that their actions we reasonable. This means they have to follow many of the same rules for defending against wildlife as they do defending against a human attacker such as the elements of deadly force and the use of force continuum. We will be diving into the appropriate, recommended responses to specific types of wildlife in some later posts.

Many of us gun folk tend to only think of self defense as using a firearm. If you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. We want to avoid that in human conflict as well as in conflicts with wildlife. We have a moral duty to avoid harming others unjustly, and we generally apply that same code to wildlife. We don’t just kill things cause we want to. Pepper spray is a very effective solution for defending oneself against wildlife and has far fewer restrictions on its use.

In your yard, assuming you are in a municipality, it’s a tough sell to the justice system that you absolutely had to shoot the coyote just because you saw it in your yard. That just seems like an unreasonable risk to your neighbors to discharge a firearm when it wasn’t absolutely and immediately necessary. If you can articulate that the coyote had the ability and opportunity to put you in immediate jeopardy of losing your life, and that you exhausted all other force options, then you likely have a case. You still have a burden to report the incident to the AZGFD.

*This is provided as a Legal Information Resource and should not be treated as legal advice.