Bart Pfankuch of South Dakota News Watch goes looking for science showing that Governor Kristi Noem’s vaunted Nest Predator Bounty Program is boosting our pheasant population. He doesn’t find any. Game Fish and Parks Secretary Kevin Robling admits GF&P doesn’t have any and isn’t really looking for any:
Robling acknowledges there is no data or concrete evidence to show that the bounty program has improved pheasant or duck numbers or enhanced successful nesting rates, but he remains convinced it is working.
“As far as quantifying pheasant abundance, we don’t have any research design set up for that,” Robling said. “But we are confident that this bounty program is enhancing nest success” [Bart Pfankuch, “South Dakota Predator Bounty Program: Successful Wildlife Management or Needless Killing of 134,000 Animals?” South Dakota News Watch, 2021.08.26].
“But we are confident”—as in confidence game… con game….
Pfankuch goes looking for research articles and finds the science backs what most observers have pointed out since Noem launched this boondoggle in 2019: trapping/shooting/killing raccoons and skunks and other critters we don’t like doesn’t show conclusive evidence of helping the critters we do like. Pressed by Pfankuch, Secretary Robling did Google up a couple links that he thought would support his confidence. One was a 2011 SDSU master’s student thesis that I linked in my August 22 article as an example of research that does not support the state’s claims that its Nest Predator Bounty Program can positively impact pheasant populations. Pfankuch reads that master’s thesis and finds I read it more accurately than Secretary Robling did:
Another research article suggested by Robling, a 2011 master’s thesis paper written by a student at South Dakota State University, compared pheasant and duck brood success on “control” plots of land where predator removal did not occur to brood success on “treatment” plots where predators, primarily coyotes, were removed by trapping. The results of the study of so-called Block Predator Management in eastern South Dakota appeared to be inconclusive in regard to the effectiveness of wide-scale predator-removal efforts.
Statistical analysis of nest success “for both ducks and pheasants indicated that there was no difference … between control sites and treatment sites,” the paper concluded.
However, the student noted his belief that predator management “had positive effects in some blocks during some years.” But ultimately he found that “[i]n areas where adequate habitat is present on the landscape and birds are capable of high production, a program like BPM is not necessary and funds would be better spent elsewhere” [Pfankuch, 2021.08.26].
Not only is Game Fish and Parks not doing science on its Nest Predator Bounty Program, but its Secretary, a December 2020 Noem appointee, can’t even cite external science accurately.