PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Animal protectionists call it cruel and inhumane. Sportsmen groups say it’s financially wasteful and biologically not very effective.
But several years of public criticism haven’t stopped Governor Kristi Noem from bringing back, for a third spring, one of her favorite wildlife habitat-enhancement programs.
It offers to pay bounties to trappers and hunters from South Dakota who turn in the severed tails from five of the state’s native species; raccoon, opossum, badger, striped skunk and red fox.
Those animals feed upon game birds, such as pheasants, ducks and geese, that hunters want to kill for themselves.
Keeping the two-legged ones alive for hunters is one reason the governor wants the four-legged predators dead.
Another reason is Noem, a hunter who once was part of a family-owned pheasant hunting ranch, wants young people to get into the woods and marshes and open fields to help revive the fading practice of catching animals in metal cages and traps.
To that end, the state Game, Fish and Parks Department this year is drawing a weekly prize package for those participants younger than 18: Three live traps, a hunting knife and a trapper-education booklet.
The 2021 nest-predator bounty program began April 1. Keith Fisk, the department’s wildlife-damage program administrator, reported to the state’s GFP commission on Thursday the first winner was Tyler Esser of Frankfort.
The department’s daily-results website showed 1,030 tails submitted as of Thursday: 729 raccoon, 250 striped skunk, 39 possum, six badger and six red fox. There have been 94 submissions, including 30 people younger than age 18 during the first big turn-in day, April 6.
At $10 per tail the program has spent $10,300 so far. The commission set the budget at $500,000 and the season will run through July 1.
Fisk said warm weather would help encourage more people to take part. He said it’s less offensive to the nose to freeze the tails in plastic bags until the scheduled turn-in dates at GFP offices.
“Off to a good start here,” Fisk told the commission.