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Report: Big Game Facing Big Risks from Climate Change

PHOTO: A report from the National Wildlife Federation warns that the effects of climate change could put the future of the state's treasured big-game wildlife at risk. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service
PHOTO: A report from the National Wildlife Federation warns that the effects of climate change could put the future of the state's treasured big-game wildlife at risk. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service
November 15, 2013

YANKTON, S.D. – While many South Dakotans have enjoyed the milder winters of recent years, some environmental experts say the effects of climate change could put the future of the state's treasured big game wildlife at risk.

Frank Szollosi, Great Lakes Outreach Coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), says that rising temperatures, deeper droughts and other extreme weather events have taken a toll on the state's white-tailed deer, antelope and elk.

He says if nothing is done, much of the hard work of the past century to save these animals and their habitats could be undone.

"The past 75 years has seen hundreds of millions of dollars and leadership by hunters and conservationists to protect and restore many of these species,” he explains. “These wildlife restoration accomplishments are at risk."

The report offers suggestions for turning the situation around, including reducing carbon pollution, speeding up the transition to more renewable sources of energy and promoting climate-smart approaches to conservation.

Szollosi says if left unchecked, the impact on big game will also mean consequences for humans.

"Lyme disease is going to become a much greater threat than has previously to not just household pets but also to children and other folks who spend time outdoors," he stresses.

It's estimated that big and small game hunting bring more than five hundred million dollars into the state's economy each year, money that too could be at risk if nothing is done, according to the report.


Jerry Oster, Public News Service - SD