So you just got your new pet ferret, and you're thinking that the first thing you want to do is head into the wilderness and use it to go hunting. While this may be fine in some places, don't set off to the woods with your ferret on a leash if you live in West Virginia. Using the animals as hunting partners is illegal.
It's important to note that the anti-hunting law does not mean you can't hunt or trap a ferret as game. It means you can't use it to hunt other animals, like small birds. This could be compared to the practice of using dogs to hunt coyotes, which is done in many places, or the older practice of using hounds and horses to go fox hunting.
The law is fairly comprehensive, saying you can't pursue, injure, catch, take, kill, or hunt any animal with a ferret. So don't think that you can chase it down as long as you don't shoot the animal at the end of the chase. Even using the ferret to track the animal down is illegal if you're caught. This was likely put in to keep people from claiming that they were never intending to shoot their game if they were caught ferret hunting before they had actually succeeded.
In any case, if you do any of the things listed above, you can be fined. The fine cannot be under $100, but it can't go over $500. Perhaps more shockingly, there's also what appears to be a mandatory jail term for this crime. You have to be locked up for at least 10 days. The maximum you can be jailed is 100 days.
While it's easy to think that laws like this are likely not enforced, the reality is that you could end up paying $500 and then losing far more when you spend over three months in prison, so it's something you may want to take seriously!
Your Legal Options
There is a lot of wilderness and open land in West Virginia, so hunting is fairly popular. As you can see, it pays to know the local hunting laws, never making assumptions about what can and cannot be done during any season. If accused of breaking these laws, you also need to know your rights in court.
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