Governor Kristi Noem had Game Fish and Parks spend money on a Virginia company to conduct a survey to determine the effectiveness of her Nest Predator Bounty Program, in which she gave out free traps and paid people $10 for every tail of a skunk, raccoon, red fox, opossum, or badger that they could bring in. But in another sign of the Snow Queen’s fixation on image over substance, the survey did not gauge the actual effectiveness of the program in its proclaimed purpose of boosting pheasant population… perhaps because we already have ample evidence that the program predictably failed in that regard. Instead, the survey measured South Dakotans’ perceptions of the program.
Noem touted those surveyed perceptions in her State of the State Address. GF&P posts survey company Responsive Management’s report and slides for our amusement.
The Virginians got responses from 1,044 of the program’s 3,044 participants and another 418 randomly dialed South Dakotans. They found 91% of the participants and 83% of the general population approve of the Nest Predator Bounty Program. But that approval seems to continge largely on the assumption that the program achieves its primary goal of increasing the pheasant population:
Majorities of participants and the general population sample said they approve of the Nest Predator Bounty Program because they want to control predators and boost game bird populations. Only 14% of trappers and 1% of the general population said their approval was related to encouraging kids to get outside.
When the Governor realized she would never get science to back up her primary motivation for the program of boosting pheasant numbers, she tried to pivot to that marginal secondary “for the children” motivation. This survey indicates that trappers and non-tail-chopping South Dakotans alike look past that bluff and expect trapping to significantly reduce predators and give us more birds to shoot at.
The RM survey’s “full explanation” (given to everyone before asking the approval question, to address the fact that 62% of the general population sample said they had never heard of the tail bounty program prior to the survey) speaks solely of those primary goals but says nothing about the lack of scientific evidence that the program achieves them:
The South Dakota Nest Predator Bounty Program provides trapping opportunities for state residents while reducing predators that prey on the nests of pheasants and ducks during the nesting season. Program participants receive $10 per eligible predator that is harvested through trapping. Eligible species to trap for this program are raccoon, striped skunk, badger, opossum, and red fox [Responsive Management, “South Dakota Residents’ and Participants’ Perceptions of the South Dakota Nest Predator Bounty Program,” 2019].
RM itself says “the biological reasons,” for approval “far exceed human recreation reasons.” It would be interesting to find out how the positive perceptions RM reports might have changed if respondents learned that the program doesn’t achieve the biological reasons cited.
RM does try to give the Governor some faint whiff of rebuttal to science by asking participants if they think the program boosted bird populations. 70% say sure, they think trapping 50,000 varmints must have resulted in more pheasants and ducks. Even RM has to admit “Obviously, this is just a perception among participants; only a biological study could determine the Program’s effect on pheasant and duck populations.” But determined to give the dog her bone, RM adds, “Nonetheless, this anecdotal evidence may be an indication of the effect of the Program.”
Right. There’s just as much chance that this anecdotal evidence indicates the trappers’ desire to keep the beer money from Pierre flowing.
This survey does not measure the actual effectiveness of the Nest Predator Bounty Program in achieving its primary purpose of increasing the pheasant population. It only provides data for the Governor to use in tuning her messaging to make voters think her program was effective.
Noem’s language/honesty game is reminiscent of the game of Steve Hickey tried to play on DFP readers in an earlier DFP thread. Joe South describees this behavior better than I ever could:
Both have the objectives of disguising reality to achieve an imagine political success or, in other cases, of simply avoiding the embarassment for taking positions that are later in fact demonstrated to be wrong and often harmful.
Joe South, good stuff and spot on. The disguise is only met for the dopes and they will fall for anything they don’t have to work at. Look around, we can all see by how far down the slope these lying liars have taken us.
Cut down on the chemicals, put in soil banks or CRP and enforce them. Then you get pheasants, grouse, clean water (what the hell is that?) for fishing, and also, trapping.
I have always thought that CWD has to do with the lack of pesticide free drinking water in the wild… just a thought. Same goes with the pheasant population and being sprayed with Agent Orange or something similar. Encourage more cultivation for weed control.
The survey provides confirmation of confirmation bias, and not much else. If you participated in the program or were inclined to approve the of the program you were more inclined to believe what the program purveyors said about the program, even if that is largely scientifically disproved. The whole idea of predator control as a means to increase pheasants, has been around for 60 years. You’ve probably heard about it, but not about the science that debunks it. Thus, it might just be a reflection of what’s been in the news for 6 decades, rather than anything else.
Other than that, the survey was a waste of money.
I took in the entire presentation and the subsequent brief discussion afterward in which GFP staff seemed very much aware of the incompetence of the survey and urged the commission to establish a resolution to continue the program this year without a trap give away and a $5.00 bounty instead of a $10.00. During the presentation, it was glaringly obvious to a few of us that have done survey and statistical work that there were huge issues with both sample size of the general public as well as survey design and the egregious bias in construction of the questions asked. It was absolutely glaring what the problem was. The obvious question of whether participants’ perceptions of the program would change if the program did or did not accomplish its objectives was purposely avoided. What was also obvious is the survey did not include the group of people that actually paid the bills for this travesty. No hunters, fishermen, or other outdoorsmen were surveyed. The survey did an absolutely lousy job of dealing with the variability as well. I’ve listened and tried to absorb statistical presentations like this numerous times over the years, many of them by former GFP Human Dimensions specialists and this one was the biggest snake oil sales job I ever witnessed…. Confirmation bias? Orchestration bias and self fulfilling prophecy all wrapped up into one expensive, statistical farce. Hunters and Fisherman paid for another elephant parade clean up.
JW is right on. They could ask farmers rancher hunters and fishermen and come up with a more accurate report. There is more pheasants that one year ago. Gov. Noem started a good program that will benefit all wildlife. This issue is about wildlife numbers and should not be a political issue.
I will dispute the notion of more pheasants and the notion of a good program. There is no data to show, with any accuracy, that pheasant numbers are on the upswing. It takes 3-5 years of careful, well designed and implemented monitoring work to establish that and GFP hasn’t had a coherent, and viable population density survey for any species of wildlife for over 25 years and that includes pheasants. The obvious fact that we’re avoiding is that pheasant numbers can’t, and won’t rebound to any significant degree until such time as we recover at least 1/2 of the nesting and brood-rearing habitat we had back in the 90’s. If anyone was paying attention to history, SD had a minimum of 4 monitoring protocols that combined to establish an annual pheasant density index that was trackable. There is one today that only loosely resembles what it was 25 years ago but yet GFP publishes the current annual statistics alongside the historical trend under the public assumption that the numbers are comparable……. They aren’t and they can’t be. It’s the same slight of hand as was used in this public perception survey. There is no controlling the huge variability that exists. And the real fact of the matter was that Daugaard, not Noem, was on the right track albeit that he ran into the same extreme denial of wildlife biology and management that has plagued habitat programs for decades. There is always a better mousetrap to conserving wildife that is cheaper that lets farmers maintain their ditch to ditch clean farming practices, drainage of wetlands, channelization of waterways, and converting highly erodable lands to small grain production and grazing or mowing permanent vegetative cover flat…….NOT!!!! Noem doesn’t have a good plan,,,,, she has a bunch of alternatives in a rusty tool box that have already been proven to be junk science.
I will dispute the notion of more pheasants and the notion of a good program. There is no data to show, with any accuracy, that pheasant numbers are on the upswing. It takes 3-5 years of careful, well designed and implemented monitoring work to establish that and GFP hasn’t had a coherent, and viable population density survey for any species of wildlife for over 25 years and that includes pheasants. The obvious fact that we’re avoiding is that pheasant numbers can’t, and won’t rebound to any significant degree until such time as we recover at least 1/2 of the nesting and brood-rearing habitat we had back in the 90’s. If anyone was paying attention to history, SD had a minimum of 4 monitoring protocols that combined to establish an annual pheasant density index that was trackable. There is one today that only loosely resembles what it was 25 years ago but yet GFP publishes the current annual statistics alongside the historical trend under the public assumption that the numbers are comparable……. They aren’t and they can’t be. It’s the same slight of hand as was used in this public perception survey. There is no controlling the huge variability that exists. And the real fact of the matter was that Daugaard, not Noem, was on the right track albeit that he ran into the same extreme denial of wildlife biology and management that has plagued habitat programs for decades. There is always a better mousetrap to conserving wildife that is cheaper that lets farmers maintain their ditch to ditch clean farming practices, drainage of wetlands, channelization of waterways, and converting highly erodable lands to small grain production and grazing or mowing permanent vegetative cover flat……… Noem doesn’t have a good plan,,,,, she has a bunch of alternatives in a rusty tool box that have already been proven to be junk science.
So then JW, would you call this fraud? If the state is selling pheasant hunting licence to out of state hunters/drinkers on the promise of more birds, that you know is untrue, that is false advertising. https://www.truthinadvertising.org/south-dakota/
SD Tourism and GFP along with the Governors Office has been promoting this malicious deception for years. They get away with it because there are few Non-resident hunters left that remember the pheasant hay days so they have no idea what pheasant abundance is or even where it is in a lot of cases. On top of that, the people that make an economic and political difference usually have a shooting preserve or pay to hunt operation as a sponsor so their bird numbers are pretty much guaranteed. The idea of pheasant hunting in South Dakota is nowhere close to the cultural tradition that it used to be. When Noem or Tourism shows up on the TV and starts lauding the nobility of family and cultural traditions of pheasant hunting, they don’t speak to the average guy from Minnesota or Colorado that is willing to travel to SD for a weekend or two and hunt public lands because they can’t afford the normal $150.00/day/gun to hunt private land. They’re speaking to the wealth of the country. At best, it’s disingenuous but I wouldn’t go so far as to call it fraud or false advertising. It’s certainly misleading and misrepresents conditions most years but as mentioned, it plays on the lack of familiarity and understanding both non-residents and residents have of historical conditions. Nobody talks much about regional or even local variations in pheasant densities that occur annually either and they most certainly don’t talk about access to the resource. It’s one reason why we have a resident only season before the regular season to give residents first crack at limited bird numbers on public lands. The survey points out number changes from one year to the next but even that can be misleading. But that is what the survey is for. To inform the non-resident hunter rather than the management system as it should.
For many years, I was invited to return to the home of my youth and hunt pheasants with family friends that I had grown up with. It truly was a highly valued cultural tradition that I looked forward to. When habitat and pheasant numbers went into the tank, in the early 2000s for the third or fourth time in my life time, the landowners that invited me and others back to hunt began to buy and raise pheasants while converting more land to crops. They would release them in a couple of places before the season opened and we showed up to hunt. Within a couple of years, the artificiality was evident and the experience wasn’t what it once was. I got a letter one year asking for help paying for the pheasants purchased and raised. That was a deal-breaker for me. If I didn’t pay, I wouldn’t hunt and I haven’t. I asked to hunt waterfowl with a friend one year and was invited to stay and do that but that is the last time I’ve been back. Some people can adapt to those changes. I can’t and won’t. I’m sure there are non-residents that show up here every year with great expectations based upon the information and promotion from tourism and GFP and go home disappointed. That is part of what is killing hunting and the outdoor sports not only here in SD but all over the nation. Its no longer a cultural tradition. It’s a mad economic scramble to keep outfits like GFP in operating funds while trying to appease struggling small businesses in a highly volatile tourism environment. The resource is just a secondary consideration. The state fully commercializes a public resource regardless of its status and distribution because they’ve made the pheasant and other wildlife an item of commerce as opposed to the natural resource icon that supported a family friendly fall culture for decades.
Show me the data. How do we know there are more pheasants? And if there are more birds, how come fewer people bought hunting licenses?
Come on Corey…. I’m sure you’ve thoroughly scanned the data from last August’s Brood Route Survey that tends to show a decline in densities from 2018 although 40 of the 110 routes surveyed showed a slight increase. https://gfp.sd.gov/userdocs/docs/PBR_2019FINAL.pdf The fact that fewer people bought hunting licenses doesn’t have much of a nexus to pheasant densities but one could make a loose case for a relationship. It’s pretty common knowledge that a lot of people from out of state tend to either look at the survey data or call an acquaintance or two here in the state to test the waters, so to speak. before planning trips to the state to hunt. Early last fall, on quite a few web sites and blogs, there were all sorts of people reporting more birds than 2018 even though the survey said differently. There were also some that suggested there were no birds to be found anywhere. The “more bird” observations could have come from those areas that showed a modest increase on the survey or they could just be intentional exaggerations intended to lure people to the state to spend money. It could also be a combination of those two plus other variables. The point is, the conditions can’t be measured accurately because the variability is just huge…. The survey can and likely is influenced by release of pen-reared birds leftover after that season ends on March 31. Single hens without broods are also counted along with those that have broods. (which is just another variable that skews the data.)
I’m reasonably confident that SD would have even less small game license sales were it not for over 200 private shooting preserves in the state that take undue advantage of wild pheasants on their properties while stocking pen-reared birds for the gun. And what we also forget is there is are a fair number of out of state hunters that buy small game licenses and come to hunt sharptailed grouse and prairie chickens that this state pays very little attention too. Early season sharptails are very popular in some upland pointer and setter circles. Of course, that resource doesn’t attract near the numbers that pheasants do but it’s always been contributory. Those two species appear to be in sharp decline stimulated by the heavy grassland plow out in the last 20 years. License sales does not distinguish between pheasant and grouse hunters.
The problem with the entire brood survey process is the unmanageability of the variables. Furthermore. the survey design, it’s conduct and data comparisons are inconsistent with the historical process and the trend data that was accumulated, analyzed and reported. The honest statistical reality is that today’s data can not be, in any capacity, modeled or compared to data collected 20 years ago. You’re pretty astute when it comes to statistical analysis and I think you’ll agree that a survey conducted differently, with greater, lesser or more variable inputs can not be legitimately compared to historical data and statistics compiled under even a similar process. But that is what they are doing and they expect the public to accept that stuff as the gospel. If you’ll recall, Hepler said last year that he was displeased with the survey and wanted to implement a different process that would be more accurate. The statistical reality to that is that if he does that, the data collected can’t be compared to last year or the year before that or even 10 years before that. It would be stand-alone information that would be, in large measure, meaningless. Depending upon the weather for the remainder of the winter in many parts of SD, I’d suspect that we’ll see yet another decline in density in many areas just because that is an expected population dynamic of fewer hens producing fewer poults and smaller brood sizes. Reproductive viability is critical in populations of critters with low life expectancies like pheasants. We’re at a point where it isn’t just habitat that is a concern and more bad weather this winter and spring is going to have an effect that even a huge turn around in nesting and brood rearing habitat won’t fix. A nest predator bounty program won’t do squat either.
This months FFG magazine says SD Game people want to expand predator control officers by 2 and incorporate more aerial coyote control and night hunting, if memory serves. I don’t have the digital subscription, but if someone does, maybe they can copy the short news item from the front part of the magazine.