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HB 1242: Opossum Are Varmints!

Didelphis virginiana; photo from South Dakota state wildlife habitat mapping app.
Didelphis virginiana; photo from South Dakota state wildlife habitat mapping app.

One sleepy little bill deserving at least a little attention is House Bill 1242, in which Representative Spencer Gosch (R-23/Glenham) declares the humble opossum an outright pest, a varmint to be hunted without restraint or apology.

As an example of the mundane complications of lawmaking, HB 1242 adds just one word, opossum, to statute, but to make that insertion must quote all 928 words of SDCL 41-1-1.

The only Democrat on the sponsor list for HB 1242 is Senate Minority Leader Tory Heinert (D-26/Mission). If we do varmintify opossum (opossa? mo’possum?), perhaps someone can treat Senator Heinert to a pair of nice opossum earmuffs to complement his stunning coyote coatDidelphis virginiana, the Virginia opossum, does extend its habitat out to Heinert’s Rosebud environs, although it is mostly an East River creature. According to the state critter habitat map, South Dakota is the northwestern limit of the critter’s current range, although it is extending north and west. “Opossums are opportunistic feeders,” says the state. “They will hunt frogs, tadpoles, clams, and crayfish along wetlands and search for bird eggs and young in trees. They will also eat small mammals, birds, invertebrates, fruit, berries, and carrion.”

I guess we should have built a possum wall. Now we’ve let ’em in and have to declare them varmints. Shucks.

This one-word bill actually gets a hearing tomorrow morning, Thursday, February 7, before House Agriculture (and Natural Resources) at 7:45 a.m. in Capitol Room 414.


  1. Porter Lansing 2019-02-06

    Mo’ Possum? good one

  2. mike from iowa 2019-02-06

    “Grinners” have more redeeming qualities than many a wingnut pol I could name. They are America’s one and only Marsupial. Their front paws make tracks like tiny human handprints and they can hang for hours by their prehensile tails. Show me a law maker that can do all that.

    Still, they are varmints. Don’t get me started on what I really think about pols of the wingnut persuasion.

  3. Roger Cornelius 2019-02-06

    I’m still confused about the difference between the possum and opossum.

  4. Debbo 2019-02-06

    Some people keep them as pets. I think they’re really pretty ugly.

  5. Shari Kosel 2019-02-06

    Did you know that opossums eat virtually all the ticks in your yard? Opossums will destroy some 90 percent of all the ticks they encounter. Knowing the effects of Lyme disease, these little mammals deserve a better rap in the world.

  6. mike from iowa 2019-02-06

    Difference is whether you want to waste three syllables on a varmint when 2 does nicely, Roger.

  7. Kal Lis 2019-02-06

    mike from iowa

    Thanks for the clarification. I always thought the difference was Granny Clampett cooked possum in stew and Ellie Mae Clampett kept opossums as pet critters.

    Your distinction is much more logical and prevents me from having to worry about what’s on my plate at supper

  8. mike from iowa 2019-02-06

    Kal Lis, thank you for the kind words. And watch yer plate for liver, too. Yuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!

  9. jerry 2019-02-06

    The similarities between Opossum and Possums are shown even more so when compared to Republican legislators, both play dead real well most of the time with their dead on arrival dumb arse bills….this being one of many.

  10. Ranch Hand 2019-02-06

    They are a danger to horses as a disease vector unique to their species. The particular disease, Equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM) is often fatal. See:

    “A few types of wild animals and all opossums can be the carrier of the protozoa for EPM. While other animals may carry the protozoa in their body, only opossums can transmit EPM. The feces of opossums contain sporocysts and that is how they transmit the disease. These sporocysts are cysts that contain spores of the protozoa and they reproduce asexually. If there is feed, grass, or water that has been contaminated with the opossum’s feces, the horses will ingest the sporocysts. Once the sporocysts are transferred to the horse, they can cause neurological damage, including lesions on the spinal cord and brain stem.”

  11. Alan F 2019-02-06

    I kinda hate to see opossum’s maligned like this. They really don’t hurt anything (we have quite a few around the farm), and they are reputed to eat lots of ticks that really are pests. No on HB 1242!

  12. Francis Schaffer 2019-02-06

    My Mom tells the story when she was on the farm over 20 years ago. She woke up in the early dark a.m. hours, heard some thing scratching on the back screen door. She investigated and it was a baby opossum on the handrail by the door. She said, ‘It was so cute’. ‘Well what did you do Mom’? ‘I hit it with a hammer’. Funniest story, good for me she never considered me cute.

  13. Debbo 2019-02-06

    That’s very funny Francis. 😁

  14. Connie Mogen 2019-02-06

    I grew up on a farm near Doland but never saw a possum until I moved into a mobile home park in the city limits of Sioux Falls! They’ve gotten right up on my deck and I think were responsible recently for chewing through straps that held my water lines up! They also chewed through the heat tape and I ended up with frozen water lines!

    I don’t know if they should be labeled varmints. After all, they were here first! But I do wish they’d stay down in the river bottom and leave my place alone!

  15. Dave 2019-02-07

    Coming home late one night I encountered one feasting on a dead skunk in the middle of the road. I avoided the grizzly scene with a quick maneuver and continued on my way. Any creature that can help keep our highways clear of road kill deserves our respect.

  16. mike from iowa 2019-02-07

    I gave a yoooge possum the twice over with a ball pein hammer until there was no earthly way for it to survive. The next morning it had crawled off somewhere. They are tough and they are survivors, but there appear to be enough for and against reasons for them and against them I guess they will continue to survive.

    Anybody want any excessive amounts of excessive live raccoons? For free?

  17. Shari Kosel 2019-02-07

    Mike, you do realize this is felony animal cruelty, right? Any egregious, malicious act to any animal, regardless of species, is a felony.

  18. mike from iowa 2019-02-07

    If you say so. Not going down this road with you.

  19. Peg 2019-02-07

    Ranch Hand, I worked for a biochemist with a patent on curing horses of leaky gut which allows the EPM protozoa into the bloodstream of the horse. Horses fed standard pesticide poisoned grains is what causes leaky gut. The protozoa is found in healthy horses without a leaky gut, but it passes through their GI without affecting the horse. Horses fed organic hay and oats and with other nutritional supports can be pulled out of EPM.

    Humans also get leaky gut from pesticide laden foods which lead to IBS, Crohns, Celiac, and a big list of auto-immune syndromes.

    The key is to stop the poisoning and stop the over killing of beneficial predators. We humans have thrown so much out of balance, and that is why over 50% of us are sick, and so are our animals and our air, water and soils.

  20. Debbo 2019-02-07

    Ticks plus “poisonous snakes and spiders, roaches, mice and rats, etc.”?!

    Okay Peg, you sold me. I still think they’re kind of ugly, but I appreciate them now. Thanks for the info.

  21. Debbo 2019-02-07

    Possums have fluorescent fur under UV light. Them and flying squirrels are the only North American mammals that flouresce. The squirrels’ skin turns pink. National Geographic says so.

    Just thought you’d all want to know.

  22. Porter Lansing 2019-02-07

    I saw Bullwinkle turn pink, once. Natasha told a dirty joke.

  23. grudznick 2019-02-07

    grudznick pardons Mike, who is from Iowa of course, of his ball peen transgression against the varmint.

    Mr. Lansing, what was the joke?

  24. Porter Lansing 2019-02-07

    What did the sign outside Pam’s Purple Door say?
    Beat it. We’re closed.

  25. Roger Cornelius 2019-02-07

    All is well in the world now that grudznick, who we all know is Jeremiah Murphy, has pardoned mike who is a long time Dakota Free Press friend.

  26. grudznick 2019-02-07

    I categorically deny that I am Jeremiah D. Murphy. But yes, Mike, who is a felonious opossum ball peener from Iowa, may stay.

  27. Roger Cornelius 2019-02-07

    Jeremiah M. Murphy

  28. mike from iowa 2019-02-08

    Roger, I prefer to stand convicted in front of a jury of possum peers than to ever accept a tainted pardon from Grudzilla, who is from corrupt somewhere North and West of iowa.

  29. Roger Cornelius 2019-02-08

    So, possum, O possum, My Possum, is a buffet of nouns and all you have to do is pick one.

  30. Porter Lansing 2019-02-08

    MFI & Roger – Grudznick lobbies for ~ South Dakota Education Association – South Dakota Stockgrowers Association – NW Chapter of ISRI (Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries in five states and two Canadian Provinces)- Republic National Distributing Company-SD (one of the nation’s leading wholesale liquor, wine and alcohol distributors, specializing in wine and spirits) – South Dakota Society for Respiratory Care (all women on the Board) – Regional Health, Inc. (hospitals in Rapid City, Newcastle WY and Deadwood)
    So many times we’ve heard grudz denounce teachers and unions and now we find out he works for the teacher’s union. How many times he’s degraded women by leering at their appearance and now we find out he works for an all woman led respiratory care group. How many times grudz has denounced the free liquor events for the legislature and now we find he works for the liquor group looking for favors. Hypocrite is not strong enough for this lowest of character charlatan.

  31. Debbo 2019-02-08

    Are we surprised Porter? We are not.

    Someone who knows Murphy/Grudz called him a punk. The speaker was too kind.

  32. Roger Cornelius 2019-02-08

    Haven’t heard from Grudz in the past few days, you don’t suppose he came out and saw his shadow and went back into his cave, do you?

  33. Porter Lansing 2019-02-09

    varmints are as varmints do (Maybe he ran into Stace, in Nelson’s private office) 😉

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