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South Dakota pheasant nest predator bounty program proposed

Skunks

Striped skunks are one of the nest predators targeted by the proposed bounty program.

Gov. Kristi Noem’s pheasant nest predator bounty program took another step toward fruition March 1.

On that date, the state Game, Fish and Parks Commission accepted proposals to create the program and to allow traps on public lands until August. 31 every year. The bounty program proposal says species eligible for the $10 bounty are raccoons, skunks, opossums, badgers and red fox. Also, only South Dakota residents could collect bounties.

“We’re excited about the program,” said wildlife damage specialist Keith Fisk.

Still, Fisk had to answer a couple of tough questions before the Commission accepted the proposal. Scott Phillips, for example asked what will stop someone from collecting the tails off of roadkills in order to collect bounties.

“Hopefully, that doesn’t happen,” Fisk said before going on to explain that to get paid, a person must sign a legal affidavit stating that they killed animal whose tail they’re turning in.

Commission chairman Gary Jensen asked Fisk to explain who will be paying for the bounties and how much the Department expects to spend on the program. Fisk said the money will come from hunting licenses and probably won’t cost more than around $400,000. Still it’s an educated guess, he said.

“I would be surprised if we reached more than $500,000,” Fisk said. “That’s 50,000 tails.”

Tracking the benefit of the bounty program, too, likely will prove difficult Fisk said. There’s science on both sides of the issue he said pointing to a South Dakota study in the 1970s that showed trapping could have an impact on localized areas and a more recent GFP study that showed mixed results.

“In my opinion it’s going to be very difficult to ascertain the benefit of the program,” Fisk said in reference to it’s helping pheasants.

Helping pheasants, though, is kind of beside the point, Department Secretary Kelly Hepler said. More than anything he said he want people to see the program as being about getting more people out in the field and trapping.

Hepler told the Capital Journal that the Department already has been hosting “Trapping 101” classes and is planning to work with 4-H to create a 4-H trapping program.

Right now, there isn’t actually a specific budget for efforts to recruit, retain or reactivate hunters and anglers. The state-wide bounty program actually represents the first large-scale initiative focused on recruiting families into hunting, fishing or trapping, said GFP education coordinator Taniya Bethke.

“This sets a precedent, that’s important,” Bethke said.