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Otter Slaughter: Trappers Break Season Limit in Ten Days

But hey—let’s not fuss about redistricting and campaign finance; let’s go kill us some otters!

River otters are rare to see in person, but in just ten days, South Dakota met its river otter harvest limit for 2021.

Game, Fish and Parks reported 21 otters were trapped in the eastern side of the state.

…“Everyone I talked to on the phone was pretty excited for at least the opportunity to harvest one. Guys were pretty happy when they got it and I think it went pretty well,” said Alex Solem, wildlife biologist.

“This is something that not many trappers have ever got to experience and it’s kind of a touch of South Dakota history as well,” said Nick Harrington, communications manager. “This is what our state was founded on was hunting and trapping beavers and otters and this is really that kind of taking a step back and living what our folks did long before we were even here” [Ariana Schumacher, “South Dakota Completes Second River Otter Trapping Season,” KELO-TV, 2021.11.15].

SD counties open for otter slaughter; SD Dept. of Game Fish & Parks, "River Otter Trapping/Hunting Season Frequently Asked Questions 2021," retrieved 2021.11.15.
SD counties open for otter slaughter; SD Dept. of Game Fish & Parks, “River Otter Trapping/Hunting Season Frequently Asked Questions 2021,” retrieved 2021.11.15.

South Dakota was founded on trapping beavers and otters—well, that’s a new one. But if this slaughter is really about “taking a step back” and reliving our heritage, there are lots of things we can do to live like our folks did long before we were even here—like building a sod hut, riding horse to town, and pooping in a hole in the back yard—that don’t require the needless killing of rare furry critters.

The season also allows Game Fish and Parks officers to gather important information about the river otter population.

“Anytime that you’re dealing with a species that just came off our state threatened list and initiated a new season we don’t want to do anything that will be detrimental to them,” Solem said [Schumacher, 2021.11.15].

And killing 21 river otters isn’t anything detrimental to them? As with reliving our heritage, there are numerous ways to gather scientific data about South Dakota’s tenuous river otter population without killing them for sport.

This year’s river otter season opened on November 1; the limit was supposed to be 20 otters. Eleven of this year’s dead otters were bagged in Moody County; the rest came from Roberts (2), Grant(2), Codington (2), Deuel (2), Brookings (1), and Minnehaha (1). The 2020 season, the first since 1978, brought in 15 otters. In the five years before that, while river otters were still protected as a state threatened species, trappers “incidentally caught” 17 otters each year.


  1. larry kurtz 2021-11-15


    Over a hundred native species in South Dakota are at risk to the Republican Party including the endangered pallid sturgeon, paddlefish, black footed ferret, northern long-eared bat, the black-backed woodpecker that feeds on bark beetles and a bird that actually walks underwater – the American dipper, just to name a few. Threatened by the increased conversion of native prairie to cropland the most endangered plant in the chemical toilet that is South Dakota is the white-fringed orchid (Platanthera praeclara) found mainly in tallgrass prairies west of the Mississippi River.

    The reasoning is hardly mysterious: it’s all about the money prostitution, the Sturgis Rally, policing for profit, sex trafficking, hunting and subsidized grazing bring to the South Dakota Republican Party destroying lives, depleting watersheds and smothering habitat under single-party rule.

    Blend the slaughter of apex predators, the resulting rise of mesopredators, increasing numbers of domestic dogs and cats then stir in a melange of industrial chemicals with climate change and voila: red state collapse on parade!

  2. mike from iowa 2021-11-15

    “This is what our state was founded on was hunting and trapping beavers and otters and this is really that kind of taking a step back and living what our folks did long before we were even here”

    I was certain the purpose of the state was to steal the gold and Black Hills from Lakota by way of broken treaties. That is the one constant happening in Dakota’s history.

  3. Bob Newland 2021-11-15

    “This is what our state was founded on was hunting and trapping beavers and otters and this is really that kind of taking a step back and living what our folks did long before we were even here.”

    No truer words were ever spoken since the writing of the 1851 Ft Laramie Treaty, er, the 1868 Ft Laramie Treaty, er, since the 1877 Black Hills Treaty, er….

  4. mike from iowa 2021-11-15

    Otters were reintroduced in 1998-99 by, none other than the Flandreau Santee Sioux tribe. I have no doubt reintroduced iowa otters made their way across the Big Sioux into Northern Mississippi. Iowa traded turkeys to Arkansas or Missouri for otters decades ago. I used to watch them at the river at night.

  5. Porter Lansing 2021-11-15

    For millennia, fur skins were used to line winter coats all over China, and were particularly sought after in colder northern regions.

    Sea otter pelts became known as “the ermine of the sea” due to their soft fur and perennially high price.

    Killing animals makes MAGA’s feel superior.

    Think of any other activities that produce the same effect, in MAGA’s minds?

  6. jerry 2021-11-15

    What kind of world do republicans actually want for themselves? Not one has actually said what the end game is. Neal, what is it that you see as your end goal?

  7. ArloBlundt 2021-11-15

    Well…it is blood lust, plain and simple…trying to spin this slaughter as historically part of our culture is nonsense. Otters and beaver were trapped out of the eastern counties by 1850 mostly by French and Indian trappers working for the Hudson Bay Company and the St. Louis based American firms. Not much market trapping of these species was done by our Scandinavian and German homesteading relatives. Leave the otters alone!!!

  8. sdslim69 2021-11-15

    I think you folks are laying this at the wrong feet. I know many Republicans that are damned good conservationists. John Cooper, Dick Brown, Kevin Woster, several past Presidents of the SD Izaak Walton League, and SD Wildlife Federation to name a few. Most of them have been adamant about opposing the GF&P hand picked Commission and supporting people the current Governor has fired from the GF&P. If you voice any disagreement With Kristi, you are gone —- just ask the head of the Appraisal Program and several of the GF&P Directors, including the Sec. of the GF&P. I agree, shame on the Legislature and Commission for supporting stupid ideas and programs, but the Gov. can punish you if you don’t back her —– and she has! When 90% of the people commenting on a program oppose it, and they still do it, (like deer tags, otter trapping, bounty programs), you don’t have to look far to find the problem!!

  9. mike from iowa 2021-11-15

    July 2021 Fur Harvester’s Auction said 60% of otters averaged $23.25. Not worth trapping, imho.

  10. jerry 2021-11-15

    Killing River Otters just puts more pressure on pheasants. Eagles hunt otter pups and when there is a lack of one kind of prey, the eagle goes for the dumbest bird on the planet, a domesticated pheasant. So what was this kill supposed to accomplish?

  11. Donald Pay 2021-11-15

    When I was about 11-13 years old I’d ride my bike down to the Sioux River. The city had yet to extend beyond 41st Street, so that stretch of the river was “wild,” at least in my little city boy mind, even though parts of the river upstream and downstream had been channelized. I’d see an occasional otter in the “wild” stretches south of 41st Street. They hadn’t all been extirpated, but they seemed only to exist in that two mile stretch, and they weren’t numerous. I spent a little time casting my fishing line in the turbid waters pretending I’d snag something, but I got more kick out of watching the otters or beavers or wood ducks in that stretch of river than in fishing. It sort of changed my idea of what outdoor life should be. Over the next few years I became more interested in observing the habits and habitats of wildlife. Gradually, the city grew to the south, degrading the habitat. I suppose there are no mote otter in that stretch of river anymore.

    It breaks my heart that people would kill these animals. If they needed the pelts for warm clothing during the winter, it would be something I could see, as long as they didn’t take more than they needed and the population could rebound. But to kill them just to kill them is evil.

  12. Bonnie B Fairbank 2021-11-15

    I can’t even read this article; the title was enough. When I first moved here, I had neighbors five properties west of mine that killed beaver in the Fall River and let their corpses float downstream to lodge on the banks of my property. I waded in and retrieved three poor, bloated, stinky corpses and buried them before I figured out who was shooting them.
    I rejoice to say both of these “humans” went on to suffer painful and prolonged deaths. Not a single f**k was given by me.

  13. Richard Schriever 2021-11-15

    living what our folks did long before we were even here.. huh?

    Who are “our” folks (vs. “their” folks??) and where were us all?

  14. ArloBlundt 2021-11-15

    Well…people seem to get terribly upset about beaver damming up creeks and cutting down trees…that’s exactly what beaver were meant to Bonnie points out, landowners will shoot whole families of beaver to prevent a partially flooded pasture…it is too bad that when we buy property with a stream of running water on it, we cannot put aside some property along the stream for the use of beavers who tend to create a different though beautiful environment when they move into a stream. We’re at war with the natural landscape and it’s our loss.

  15. Mark Anderson 2021-11-15

    You know when we were taking care of our neighbor’s pets I saw group of otters running through her backyard from her lanai. You can guess what that is folks. They are wonderful creatures. Will always remember that. Won’t remember a single trapper, maybe from Mash. I did overdo it with her cat however, petted it almost bald on one side. Too much of a good thing. It’s amazing that you can get excited over killing something isn’t it? That must be what drives Republican Governors.

  16. Porter Lansing 2021-11-15

    -Hunters often seek multiple satisfactions (achievement, affiliation, appreciation).
    -Achievement is the dominant satisfaction in 81% of hooved mammals and 86% of carnivore killings.
    -Appreciation is nearly absent as a dominant satisfaction in carnivore killings.
    -The majority of animal killings have multiple satisfactions present.
    -The odds of true ‘pleasure’ smiles are greater when hunters pose: (a) with versus without prey, (b) with large versus small prey and, (c) with carnivores versus herbivores (among older men).
    -The prospect of displaying large and/or dangerous prey at least in part underlies the behavior of many contemporary hunters.” All in all, “pleasure smiles” are greater when hunters pose with dangerous corpses.
    -But, why do trappers kill cute, l’il otters?
    -Because they hate women and specifically their mothers.
    Psychology Today

  17. grudznick 2021-11-15

    We have no evidence that these otter slaughterers are Republicans or Democrats or Independents or Libertarian. It is the Libertarian, you know, who is a better hunter, the Independent who hunts for sport only, the Democrat who doesn’t eat his game because he’s a vegetarian, and the Republican who uses the meat for food and the hide for clothing and the bones for jewelry.

  18. larry kurtz 2021-11-15

    This phenomenon is not unique to South Dakota by any stretch.

    Ironic that in a country that exports more weapons of mass destruction than all others combined and relentlessly hunts nearly anything that moves, in parts of the Mountain West and even in bright red Wyoming Equus ferus is still seen as a pet.

    In an era when western states are scrambling to preserve habitat for bison, wapiti, bighorn sheep, pronghorns, deer, the threatened greater sage grouse and all the other wildlife at risk to the Republican Party how is running nurseries for introduced species like feral horses and burros either conservative or sustainable?

  19. grudznick 2021-11-15

    Rewild the west, and eat elk.

  20. larry kurtz 2021-11-15

    I grew up on the banks of Medary Creek, a tributary of the Big Sioux River now lethal to nearly every thing it touches.

    Even in the 60s beaver dams were dynamited and atrazine contaminated water didn’t deter swimming but now CAFOs have poisoned the wells beyond the beyond because every pathetic grudznick who lives in Brookings County has ripped out shelter belts for the center pivot irrigation draining aquifers hoping to tap federal gubmint dollars to sustain an unsustainable drain.

    Picking a lane is already a ridiculous notion.

  21. grudznick 2021-11-15

    Those damn grudznicks in Brookings County are ecologically unsound, this is true.

    Insaner and insaner, the overgodder Mr. Haugaard has now filed to run for governor with his main platform being “cleaning up the Big Sioux.”

  22. larry kurtz 2021-11-15

    Republicans scrambling to blame each other for red state failure makes my work way easier.

  23. WillyNilly 2021-11-16

    Some people live to kill, … something, anything, anyone. So the Republicans try to make it as easy as possible and to avoid any conseqences.

  24. mike from iowa 2021-11-18

    Newest Fur Fish and Game magazine says if you catch an XXXL otter in full prime you might get 40-50 bucks for it. Otherwise bids are in the low 20 dollar range. Not hardly worth killing such beautiful creatures and they are fun to observe.

  25. Bonnie B Fairbank 2021-11-18

    Jeezus Christ, a**holes, if you’re so hard up for cash, start recycling your beer cans and pimping your daughters out for more than a buck fiddy.

  26. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-11-18

    Mike, I’d be curious to add up how much South Dakota’s lucky trappers will spend in gear, time, and effort acquiring their traps, skinning their otters, and transporting their catches to willing buyers.

  27. mike from iowa 2021-11-18

    Master, this will give you an idea what furs were taken and what they were worth for 2019-20 season.

    There are at least three fur buyers in state. One in Soo Falls, one in Bridgewater and one in Oldham. here is at least one other that has buyers in several states.

    Oneida Victor #280 Conibear® double spring – DOZEN
    Product Code: WCSOV0425-12

    A 280 Conibear bodygrip seems to be the trap of choice for serious otter trappers and they aren’t cheap.You can use larger and smaller traps for otters, depending on state regulations.

  28. M 2021-11-19

    In this country, we have the pink and the blue. It’s called social conditioning with gender roles folks. Give little boys BB guns and say “don’t shoot your sister”, duh what do you think they’ll do? They escalate to birds and on and on. If they end up in jail at some point, no one makes the connection.

    On the other hand, give little girls dolls and baby carriers for toys and don’t complain when they get pregnant at 14.

    I’m sick of the disrespect and the destruction of the flora and fauna in this country, but especially this state. I live by the big river and see less wildlife, fewer trees and more erosion on a grand scale.

    30 years ago, the beaver flourished here and some people trapped and moved them if they were a bother. They are no more and like Bonnie, I’d find carcass everywhere along the shore. Those carcass attracted coyotes and we had a real problem.

    The fact that we bring the otter back only to be killed is a sickness beyond what I can understand. I’m too sensitive for this.

  29. mike from iowa 2021-11-19

    Once any extirpated critter is restored, gunters insist they are the ones that can best manage the masses before they become critical. Can’t wait for reintroduction of wooly mammoths and unicorns. You know some ammosexual will lust at being the first on his block to bag either species, rules be damned!

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