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Nest Predator Season Still On, But State Postpones Tail Submission and Payment

The coronavirus is putting a minor crimp in the Nest Predator Bounty Program. The season still opens April 1 for South Dakotans to go out and trap or shoot raccoon, opossum, striped skunk, red fox, and badger and chop off their tails, but because state offices, including your local Game Fish and Parks offices, are closed through May 2, eager trappers and hunters won’t be able to turn in their tails to collect their five-dollar bounties. The state is asking nest predator predators to keep their tails on ice “until dates and locations are determined for submission.”

GF&P Secretary Kelly Hepler hopes the absence of immediate payment won’t dampen public enthusiasm for killing varmints: “Now, more than ever, it is important that families connect with our outdoor resources by trapping, hunting, fishing and really just being outside together.”

Now more than ever, the state needs to get serious about spending its money on public health and economic stimulus, not scientific boondoggles. On the one hand, spending a quarter million dollars to encourage people to chase varmints and handle and store their dirty pelts isn’t the smartest policy during the current public health crisis. Remember, covid-19 may have gotten its start due to the harvesting of wildlife:

Some experts suggest the spread of the virus from wildlife to humans came from a “wet market” in China where live animals are purchased and slaughtered. It may have originated from a bat or an illegally trafficked scaly mammal called a pangolin — or both. It should be noted that a direct link has not been established.

But this proximity between people and wildlife (or sometimes domestic animals) has been shown to lead to 70 percent of zoonotic diseases. Indeed, scientists in China repeatedly warned the world about the coronavirus risks of wildlife markets.

The solution couldn’t be clearer: one crucial way to reduce disease risk is to curb wildlife exploitation. China, to its credit, slapped a moratorium on live markets and a temporary trade ban earlier this year. But much stronger, broader action is needed around the planet [Tanya Sanerib, “Coronavirus Shows Exploiting Wildlife Poses Risks to Human Health,” The Hill, 2020.03.24].

We could argue that risk is outweighed by the benefit of the Nest Predator Bounty Program if we had data showing that killing 50,000 varmints would appreciably improve the pheasant population (remember, we’re out chasing the wily opossum and and their friends because they eat pheasant eggs) and thus protect a vital food source for South Dakotans facing hunger during the Trump-Virus Depression. But of course, we have no such data.

I was going to suggest that maybe we’ll need no bounty at all to encourage cash-strapped South Dakotans to hunt down the fixins for varmint stew… but there’s that eating-wildlife/catch-weird-viruses problem again.

On the other hand, maybe the Nest Predator Bounty Program is a reasonable vehicle for state-level stimulus during this economic downturn. The state just cut the tail bounties in half; if we need to keep local economies on life support, maybe the Legislature needs to reconvene next week and undo that cut and extend the tail bounty season through the rest of the year, so laid-off waitresses and bartenders can continue to make ends meet by trudging the wetlands and catching critters.

Nest predator policy is among the state’s lesser concerns right now. The practical fact is that you are welcome to kill raccoon, opossum, striped skunk, red fox, and badger come April 1, but you can’t claim your tail bounty until Game Fish and Parks decides it’s safe to open the offices. So before you go a-killin’, check with your housemates and make sure they’re o.k. with your storing a few skunk tails in the freezer alongside your stockpile of ground beef and frozen lasagna.


  1. Donald Pay 2020-03-25 12:06

    If my tax money will go to bailouts to state governments, I would appreciate it if it went to programs that don’t waste that money. Pet projects like this should be dropped.

  2. Debbo 2020-03-25 21:42

    Cory, you called this stupid idea a “scientific boondoggle.”
    I’d amend that to an UNscientific boondoggle. If it was actually scientific, it wouldn’t be a boondoggle.
    Just sayin.

    Yes, it should be ended before it begins this year.

  3. mike from iowa 2021-03-27 13:18

    According to this month’s Fur Fish and Game Mag, the bounty is back at $10 per tail. There are plenty of coons out there, road kill and some dozens hanging around the old farmstead.

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