What are the consequences of firing a gun in a US national park due to distress? (for instance, shooting at an attacking animal, or firing in the air to attract attention when stranded)
There is a notorious controversy regarding the use of firearms for self defense, but let's set that aside and consider the following situations:
- Hiker in a national park got stranded, became scared for his life and fired in the air to attract attention.
- Hiker was attacked by an animal, feared for his life, shot at the animal, missed and the animal ran away.
- Same as 2 except the animal was hit, injured, and ran away.
- Same as 2 except the animal was killed.
Let's also set aside the complicated legal situation with regards to firearms in the US, and assume the hiker in question was carrying his weapon in a manner fully compliant with the applicable law.
Since gunfire is loud and considered suspicious, I imagine all 4 of these scenarios would attract attention from park rangers, rescue personnel, and possibly other emergency services. I imagine they would start searching for the source immediately, and probably arrive near where the shot was fired in a matter of hours at most.
Suppose also the hiker makes no attempt to flee or hide from anyone who does arrive. When someone arrives on the scene, and the situation is explained (ie. fired a gun because believed to have no other option), what happens next?
Would the hiker get a long lecture from the rangers and a fine? Would they get arrested? Would this be considered an irresponsible/unwarranted discharge of a firearm? Would shooting the animal be treated as poaching (even though clearly the intent was not to hunt)?