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Critics Cry Fowl Over SD Pheasant Protection Bounty Program


Thursday, June 6, 2019   

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – In her January inaugural address, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem promised to restore the state's pheasant population and introduced a habitat restoration initiative that is getting mixed reviews.

To boost the number of pheasants, Noem created a bounty program that pays hunters and trappers $10 for the tail of every mammal defined as a pheasant nest predator, including raccoons, striped skunks, possums, badgers and red foxes.

South Dakota author Jerry Wilson criticized the Second Century Initiative in a letter to state newspapers. Wilson objects to the governor promoting the program as a "good way to get kids outside."

"Defining the 'family outdoor experience' as going out together as a family and trapping and killing fellow creatures, cutting off their tails for a $10 bounty and tossing their body away, there's something really wrong about that," he states.

Pheasant hunters spend about $130 million in South Dakota each year, but the pheasant population has been dropping, a problem blamed on shrinking habitat.

Noem, a pheasant hunter herself, allocated $500,000 for the initiative that will continue through August, or until the money is gone.

So far, more than 20,000 mammals considered pheasant predators have been killed, but Keith Fisk, program administrator at South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, doesn't expect the bounty program to negatively affect their populations.

"So, those fur-bearer populations are extremely strong in South Dakota,” he states. “At the end of the day, if 50,000 of these nest predators get removed, it's not going to impact the population of those species in South Dakota at all."

A recent study of 132 countries documented the decline in biodiversity across the globe.

With that in mind, Wilson says he doesn't believe a taxpayer-funded program to kill native mammals in favor of a bird imported from China 100 years ago is appropriate.

"I'm all in favor of habitat restoration, but what bothers me is the idea that we should try to kill off as many of our native animals and upset the natural balance just in order to promote a money-making industry," he states.

So far, the tails of 16,000 raccoons, 3,300 striped skunks, 1,800 opossums, 146 badgers and 182 red foxes have been turned in to local Game, Fish and Parks offices.

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