TALLAHASSEE — Rejecting arguments by some Northwest Florida residents, the state Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up a lawsuit aimed at reining in “deer dog” hunting on property around the Blackwater Wildlife Management Area.
The justices involved in the decision — Chief Justice Charles Canady and justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis, Peggy Quince and Jorge Labarga — unanimously declined to review a decision by the 1st District Court of Appeal.
The lawsuit, filed against the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, contended that “deer dog” hunting infringed on the residents’ property rights and created a nuisance. “Deer dog” hunting, as the name implies, involves hunters using dogs to flush out deer and has long been allowed in the state’s Blackwater Wildlife Management Area.
But the legal battle stems from hunters and dogs trespassing on adjoining private land. Property owners filed the lawsuit seeking to prevent deer-dog hunting in the wildlife-management area. The lawsuit included what is known as a “takings claim” — essentially arguing that the deer-dog problems were so serious that they were depriving the owners from enjoying their property.
Also, the lawsuit sought an injunction to require the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to “abate” the nuisance on the private property.
Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers issued an injunction requiring the commission to abate the problem. But the majority of a three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal rejected the injunction and sent the case back for entry of summary judgment in favor of the commission on the takings and nuisance claims.
The residents then asked the Supreme Court to weigh in.
“Imagine it is Thanksgiving morning and you are enjoying the outdoors with your family, when suddenly hunting dogs chasing deer at high speeds invade your private property from the adjacent state-managed lands, sending your family and grandchildren running inside and causing your livestock to injure themselves by breaking through fences while running from the hunting dogs,” attorneys for the residents wrote in a September petition to the Supreme Court. “Then imagine gunshots ringing out around your property.”
But attorneys for the Fish and Wildlife Conservation wrote in an October brief that there wasn’t a legal basis for the Supreme Court to take up the case.