Come out, come out, wherever you are, opossum! The nest predator trapping and tail-whacking season is done!
South Dakota’s Nest Predator Bounty Program closed its fourth season last Friday. For three months, from April 1 to July 1, we paid people $10 for the tail of each raccoon, striped skunk, red fox, badger, and opossum that they could trap. (We paid kids to maim and kill these critters for a whole extra month, in March.) Trappers fell just a few tails shy of the state’s 50K limit, submitting 49,778 tails by July 1. Raccoons bore the brunt of our snappy onslaught, sacrificing 36,100 of their kind for the still professed but scientifically unsupported claim that killing some nest predators will give us more pheasants to shoot, as well as the pretense that the state has a compelling interest in encouraging kids to kill wildlife in a lazy and agonizing fashion.
Governor Kristi Noem declared war on raccoons and friends in 2019. Trapping and tail submission was disrupted in spring 2020 by the pandemic and closure of Game Fish and Parks offices, as well as the state’s cutting of the bounty from $10 to $5. But in the three “normal” years of the Nest Predator Bounty Program, the tails submitted have dropped a bit, from 54,471 in 2019 and 53,873 in 2021. Total annual submissions have dropped by half, from 5,518 in 2019 to 3,934 in 2021 to 2,757 this year. The GF&P dashboard does not state whether submissions are distinct trappers or simply the number of Tuesday tail drop-offs at GF&P offices, including repeat visitors. But I’m inclined to believe that, given the GF&P’s recommendation that trappers bring their tails in within three days of killing, this declining number represents some decline in the number of people participating in Governor Kristi Noem’s most distinct policy initiative.
The Prairie Hills Audubon Society figures the total kill over four years of our predations of nest predators equals 142,000 raccoon, 22,400 striped skunk, 16,700 opossum, 1,578 red fox, and 1,554 badger. That’s $1.7 million in bounties, plus $958K spent giving away traps in 2019.