The second year of Governor Kristi Noem’s great varmint hunt closes in two short weeks! Trappers have until July 1 to snare raccoon, striped skunk, badger, opossum, and red fox, chop off their tails, and haul their posteriors to the Game Fish and Parks office for their due reward.
For all the Governor’s claims that her program is wildly popular, trappers don’t seem as enthusiastic about catching those darned eaters of pheasant eggs this year. By June 6 last year, we had a pile of 22,851 varmint tails. As of today, June 17, our Nest Predator Bounty season has produced only 16,466 tails. That’s well short of the 50K tail cap. You’d think our state tail collections would be up, since taking the kids out to catch and kill furry critters is a great way to enjoy yourself while socially distancing yourself from coronavirus. But coronavirus could be depressing tail submissions by limiting access to GF&P offices for turn-in. Submissions could also be down because Governor Noem cut the due reward from $10 per tail to $5.
Last year’s great varmint trapaganza predictably failed to achieve its original goal of boosting pheasant populations. We’ll have less data available this year to check for diminished impact of diminished trapping, because Game Fish & Parks has decided to stop collecting data on the pheasant population.
But hey, get those last tails in! GF&P offices in Sioux Falls, Huron, Rapid City, Chamberlain, Fort Pierre, Mobridge, Webster, Watertown, and Aberdeen will be taking tails from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on June 19, June 26, and July 1. GF&P will also take tails on at the Mitchell GF&P office, Lake Herman State Park, and at the Midway 46/81 junction from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on June 17 and June 24.
A T & T calls this “Headcount rationalization”, when they terminate a position. So if you’re one of the 5,000 technicians let go today or if you own one of the storefronts of 250 AT&T locations closed, you got your tail trimmed by the crooks and liars. Did I mention GNOem?
Last year was so successful there are just fewer of these varmints about the woods. That is good news.
Come now, Grudz: without a roadside brood count of possum and skunk, how can you make such an assertion?
Recall, Grudz, that Larkin Powell, UNL professor of critter ecology, told us last August that our trapping program was “really not going to put a dent in the population of predators.”
Even if we did make a dent in the predator population, varmints adore a vacuum and will rush from adjoining states and reproduce faster to fill the gap we create, says Pheasants Forever.
After spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on trapping so-called nest predators how has the pheasant population benefitted? The state’s 2019 brood survey showed a 17 percent reduction in pheasants. Breaking with a long tradition, the State has decided there will not be a 2020 pheasant survey. There are a number of reasons publicly given, but it is possible pheasant numbers have continued to fall or failed to show much of a boost, and survey results might confirm that although the spendy trapping program was unsuccessful for pheasants, it was lucrative for trappers. The real issue for pheasants and for other species is shrinking habitat and degraded ecological conditions.
The pheasant population dynamic clarified by historical trend line coupled to the failure to substantially increase DNC (it takes about 3 years from planting to suitable established stand for nesting) should telegraph to most thinking people that pheasant numbers this year will be less than last year. The winter was not kind to breeding stock either. And many of those pheasants you see along the road are likely to be leftovers from private shooting preserves turned out of their pens to make room for new inventory coming in from Wisconsin. Their survival will be less than 3% by December. Reporting bad pheasant population stats is bad for business so lets just advertise and promote hunting tourism. Caveat emptor.
The state might consider if it wants to pay farmers to idle some of their land and put that land into soil bank or to pay pheasant farmers in Wisconsin to bring tame ones in to shoot on the set. Nothing says hunting more than Arkansawing a bird on the set at 10 feet with some steel shot. As JW notes, the survival rate for tame birds is almost nil, so their carcasses tend to feed the predators who then breed more predators…CRP is barely enough to sustain a Meadowlark. Think about the days when the birds were plentiful with no need to buy tame ones. What does the Game Fish and Park actually do?