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GF&P Excuses for Tail Bounties Get Wilder: Now We Need to Counter Decline of Fur Industry

Former Game Fish and Parks Secretary and Commissioner John Cooper has questioned the Governor’s Nest Predator Bounty Program since its inception in 2019. Cooper summarized his criticism in a panel discussion hosted by South Dakota News Watch last Wednesday:

The South Dakota’s Nest Predator Bounty Program was created for political purposes rather than with the health of the state’s habitat and wildlife in mind, Cooper said during the discussion. The program, which has cost $2.4 million so far, gives $10 for each animal tail submitted by adults and children who trap and kill raccoons and other animals that eat the eggs and hatchlings of pheasants and ducks.

…Cooper said the program was “foisted” onto South Dakota by Noem without input from longtime trappers or hunters, members of the GFP Commission or the Legislature.. Cooper said he and many other sportspersons in the state are “mad” at the handling of the program. He pointed to recent studies that suggest wide-scale, long-term, lightly monitored bounty programs, such as South Dakota’s, often don’t protect the intended species.

“It’s a bad program,” Cooper said. “It costs us money and it’s not doing anything at all for pheasant management or habitat” [Danielle Ferguson, “Wildlife Officials Express Strong Stances For and Against S.D. Pheasant Predator Bounty Program,” South Dakota News Watch, 2021.09.17].

Noem’s lackeys at GF&P keep trying to distract us from the absence of scientific evidence that trapping skunks and raccoons boosts pheasant populations. Their desperation not to face scientific fact leads Noem minion and current GF&P Secretary Kevin Robling to justify the tail bounty as a socialist intervention in the failing fur market:

Robling said the program is a creative solution to new problems facing the state’s $280 million annual pheasant hunting industry and is needed to protect nests of pheasants and young and adult birds. Low fur prices and a weak market for animal pelts have reduced interest in trapping in South Dakota in recent years, and fewer people are incentivized to trap nest predators, allowing raccoons, skunks, red foxes, possums and badgers to flourish, Robling said [Ferguson, 2021.09.17].

GF&P has cast about for other non-pheasant excuses to pay $10 per varmint tail. Now we’re resorting to claiming we have to pay kids to chop tails off possum to make up for the loss of incentive from the failing fur industry? 80% to 95% of fur comes from critter farms, and darned little of that marketed fur is possum, badger, or skunk. We don’t promote corn and bean farming by paying kids to run around the ditches to find prairie turnip and wild onion. Propping up an inefficient enterprise with dwindling demand seems like the worst use of taxpayer dollars in a sensible capitalist society.

Besides, kids aren’t learning much about profitable or ethical furring in our ill-timed spring skunk slaughter:

The ethics surrounding the program also came into question by panelists. Animals that are killed have their tails removed and are then typically left to rot or buried as there is little use for pelts taken from animals trapped in the springtime. Trapping is usually done in the fall when animal furs are thick and offspring of adults are old enough to survive.

Cooper and [trapper Robin] Hagen said the bounty program does not promote ethical trapping habits, because animals with newborns could be killed, leaving the newborns helpless.

“How do you explain outdoor activities when you have the ethics issue of leaving young ones after killing one animal for a tail?” Cooper said [Ferguson, 2021.09.17].

The Legislature needs to look past the flailing gibberish of Noem’s lackeys and stop wasting money on the Nest Predator Bounty Program. We have no evidence that the tail bounty is achieving its original goal of increasing pheasant populations, and none of the side-excuses GF&P makes for the program make any sense.


  1. John 2021-09-20 07:41

    The governess must be the most science illiterate farmer/rancher existing, perhaps that ever was.

  2. Dana P 2021-09-20 08:06

    John says it perfectly. We ought to sell t-shirts and bumper stickers.

  3. mike from iowa 2021-09-20 08:37

    Just saying……… Results of the FHA August 2020 Fur Auction (Fur Handlers Assoc)

    Coyotes were the only item that experienced active bidding, and the interest was only in heavy western coyotes. This was likely driven by demand from Canada Goose, which recently announced it would stop buying virgin wild fur to line its parkas in a couple of years. The best Western coyotes averaged $77, a considerable drop from last year’s prices, but still a bright spot in an otherwise poor market.

    Lower quality Western coyotes went for $30-40, and the rest of the coyotes offered were mainly unsold. The few that did sell didn’t do well. For instance, I had a 3X-2X I HVY C-D Eastern coyote that went for $18. The same pelt would have brought 2 to 3 times that price a year ago. Four of my smaller Easterns averaged $8 in the March sale. After the high end parka trim orders were mostly filled, buyers stopped bidding.

    Beaver – about a quarter of the offering sold, averaging $14. The demand for the hatter market that we’ve seen create a strong, albeit low, floor for the market did not appear to be present in this sale.

    Beaver castor – this was a bright spot, as the demand for castor, which is heavily used outside of the fur industry, continues to be high. Depending on grade, castor ranged from $80-110/lb.

    Muskrat – about half sold, averaging $2.50.

    Otter – about a quarter sold, averaging around $15.

    Marten – about 50% sold, averaging $20. Marten in the Lower 48 did very poorly (my Maine marten averaged $7.60).

    Bobcat – around 15% sold for a $150 average. This represented a mix of some better quality Westerns as well as the lower quality Easterns.

    Lynx – about a third of the offering sold for $42.

    Skunk – 60% sold for a $4 average.

    Fox, raccoon, fisher and mink did not sell in any meaningful quantities and were held with all other unsold goods for future sales.

    So in a nutshell, the few buyers that needed fur picked and chose what they considered to be the best values, and left the bulk of the fur at the auction house. When you go into the fur harvesting season with almost all of the previous year’s harvest still waiting to be sold, you know things aren’t good. The best possible outcome for the market would be to clear out the previous year’s inventory so that fresh goods could meet an improving market with limited available supply. Unfortunately, this just didn’t happen. In order to clear out goods in a basically dysfunctional market, most of the fur would have to be given away, which would be a huge loss for everyone involved in the production side.

    From the looks and future of fur markets, prime furs are basically worthless,unless you are a master skinner and can prepare furs for taxidermist markets. They usually pay a premium and most prefer(allegedly) to do their own skinning.

  4. Mark Anderson 2021-09-20 08:40

    Maybe Stanley Kurtz will write about Noem on this issue.

  5. Bonnie B Fairbank 2021-09-20 13:34

    WTF?! Re: FHA Auction 2020. There are still psychopathic anal fissures disguised as humans that murder OTTERS for their pelts? Why don’t you arseholess just skin puppies and kittens and premature female infants, too. Hell doesn’t have a roasty-toasty enough spot in it for you, ya filthy f*cktards.

    This is the strangest state I’ve lived in. Hey! The S.D. State Bird is the Pheasant; let’s blast the little buggers out of their commercial pens and cornfields. Bloody sporting, eh what? Does Indiana hunt and kill cardinals? Nope. Hoosiers will kill you and YOUR family and have you for breakfast. Minnesotans kill and eat loons? They used to, before they discovered toenail clippings taste better. Arizonans and the cactus wren? Nuh-uh. See: Hoosiers. Colorado? Donner party before lark buntings.

  6. ArloBlundt 2021-09-20 14:29

    Listen to John Cooper. He can tell you more about wildlife in 5 minutes than Kristi Noem can in a lifetime.

  7. Jake 2021-09-21 18:27

    Amen, Arlo. but a GOP politician of Noem’s (trumps) ilk will NEVER pay attention to science-only to her ‘political advisors’ like “the Lew” and Fury. (Or other trumpy rejects she can con with her so-called “Cowgirl” (laugh) looks.

  8. mike from iowa 2022-04-16 13:11

    In the F-F-G magazine article I mentioned recently for CRP lands and tail bounties, the GFP mentions it is giving away some traps to youngsters to help preserve old tradition of trapping for new generations to come.

    I wonder why they didn’t revive the old tradition of throwing Natives off treaty reserved tribal lands for future generations of land grabbers? Call me cynical.

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