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Nest Predator Bounty Program Submissions Down by Half Since 2019

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.


  1. Guy 2022-07-06 09:18

    Kristi’s version of socialism where the taxpayer pays for varmint tails and concealed carry permits. Kristi’s socialism values dead rodents and guns over helping actual human beings.

  2. 96Tears 2022-07-06 11:41

    This just may be Noem’s greatest achievement as governor. Leadership and daring like this is what we need in the White House, for sure!

  3. Phil 2022-07-06 12:06

    I have a very vague kidhood recollection of taking gopher tails to an office in the Brown County Courthouse and getting 3 cents apiece. Probably a false memory.

  4. larry kurtz 2022-07-06 13:04

    That Republicans consider doing as much damage to the Earth as humanly possible as a badge of achievement should come as a surprise to no one.

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

  5. Nick Nemec 2022-07-06 13:22

    $2,700,000 over 4 years, you could fund a few missing person investigators, support staff and vehicles with that money.

  6. All Mammal 2022-07-06 13:51

    Anti-Kristi is a good-for-nothing human imposter. How anyone considers her a God-fearing American is a joke. A sick, twisted, very morbid joke. We should definitely make sure she loses her job, like our lives depend on it..

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-07-06 14:29

    96, there’s some there there. The Nest Predator Bounty Program is bunch of unscientific hooey, but it is the only truly creative, distinctive policy to come out of the Noem Administration, and it came in Year 1, Month 1. Her administration has been all downhill Trump/ALEC/Hillsdale copycatting and 2024 campaigning since.

    Paying kids to trap raccoons and chop their tails off really is the signature policy of the Noem Administration. We voted for a Governor; we got $10 for catching possum. Jamie Smith could find a campaign slogan there.

  8. Arlo Blundt 2022-07-06 15:46

    I think kids are finding out that trapping skunks isn’t much fun. Raccoons are an interesting species who increase their number of young according to the amount of food in the environment. They love corn. You won’t have much impact on raccoon numbers as long as we plant corn fence row to fence row. Killing red fox and badgers just increases the number of gophers, , prairie dogs, and mice.

  9. Arlo Blundt 2022-07-06 20:46

    Phil..I think your recollection is correct. About 1954, I remember going with my older brothers cub scout troop to flood out gophers and kill them as they emerged from their “escape hole”. I think it was a fund raiser for the troop. They actually killed a few though most escaped.

  10. Algebra 2022-07-06 21:39

    The pheasant population took a hit, a game warden explained to me, because the mosquito population was down so much last year. The (poults? chicks? whatchacall’ems) eat mosquitoes and there weren’t enough bugs to keep them alive.
    This would indicate that the appropriate response to a declining pheasant population is a ban on malathion.

  11. scott 2022-07-06 21:59

    Minnehaha County is a big Pheasant hunting area in SD, NOT. How many of those Minnehaha nest predators would have been killed by rural residents w/out the program because they did not want a skunk or coon in their yards? How many of those Minnehaha nest predators were run over and the person claimed the money?

    The money is going to areas that are not pheasant hunting locations. Killing a skunk in Minnehaha County is not going to help the pheasant hunting in the James River basin and west where the major hunting is at.

  12. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-07-07 09:56

    Mosquito shortage hurts pheasant population? Dang, having to work harder to bag pheasants is a small price to pay for enjoying fewer mosquito bites and less spread of West Nile and whatever else may mutate up into the mosquitos’ transmission stream.

  13. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-07-07 10:03

    Scott, that’s an interesting observation about the geographical distribution of bounties and pheasants. In 2021, the counties that yielded 4% or more of the state’s pheasant harvest Brown, Beadle, Tripp, Lyman, Brule, and Spink. According to the NPBP dashboard, the counties that yielded 4% or more of the tails in this year’s trapping season were Minnehaha, Brookings, Yankton, and Moody.

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