SD Game and Fish wants to continue bounty program for nest predators

Shannon Marvel
Forum News Service

PIERRE, S.D. — The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department has proposed a resolution to continue the nest predator bounty program this year.

State law provides the department the ability to conduct programs to control wild animals, which includes reducing nest predators. The nest predator bounty program offered a bounty of $10 per tail for raccoons, striped skunks, badgers, opossums and red fox. The idea is that by removing nest predators from the landscape, the population of pheasant, ducks and other ground nesting birds will increase.

“Eighty-three percent of the general public supported the operation of the Nest Predator Bounty Program as demonstrated by a professional scientific survey,” the resolution stated.

The department is requesting $250,000 for the nest predator bounty fund to pay out a $5 per-tail bounty. The proposal also includes expanding the program to include shooting nest predators in addition to trapping.

The state Game, Fish and Parks Commission will gather public comments before determining whether there will be a 2020 Bounty Program and if so, will lay out the parameters of the program during its March 5 meeting.

Those parameters will include a method to identifying and monitoring the goals of the program, which include the removal of 50,000 nest predators, increasing furbearer license sales by 5%, double participation in the state’s trapping ethics program and have 20% of the bounty participates younger than 18.

A total of 54,470 tails were taken in the first year of the program, which ran from April 1 to Aug. 12, 2019:

• Raccoon: 43,779.

• Striped Skunk: 6,001.

• Opossum: 3,706.

• Red Fox: 494.

• Badger: 490.

“We did remove over 54,000 nest predators — that’s a highlight we want to articulate — primarily in eastern South Dakota,” said Kevin Robling, deputy secretary of the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department, at a Jan. 16 commission meeting. “Obviously our pheasant range is in eastern South Dakota. This did expose people to the trapping tradition. We also ran this with a whole bunch of awareness campaigns, as well.”

Robling said that 7,700 people participated in the nest predator bounty program. Of that total, Robling said 603 were involved in trapping education programs.

“There’s been a lot of commission engagement regarding the nest predator bounty program. That 83 percent of South Dakotans approved of the program is a very telling thing,” Robling said. “It did control predators. It truly doesn’t hurt nesting birds such as pheasants and ducks. So it’s a contribution to reducing those predators and in some sense controlling those predators.”

Robling said that trapping nest predators has been a management tool used by the department for years on game production areas.

In a separate effort regarding predator bounties, District 29 state Rep. Thomas Brunner, R-Nisland, has introduced a bill that would increase the allowed bounty of coyotes in South Dakota and change the punishment for falsifying a bounty.

House Bill 1181 would allow county commissions to pass a resolution to offer a bounty of no more than $50 for each coyote kill within the limits of the county. Current state law caps the bounty at $4 per coyote.

The bill would also make it a class one misdemeanor to falsify any bounty claim, or to claim a bounty on any skin for which a bounty has been paid or refused.

Current state law sets the violation as a class two misdemeanor.