South Dakota’s grisly predator bounty program has already claimed 15,000 animal lives this spring, and counting

By on May 16, 2019 with 14 Comments

In the last month, South Dakota residents have trapped and killed more than 15,000 raccoons, skunks, opossums, foxes and badgers, cut off their tails, and submitted them to the state’s wildlife management agency for a $10-per-tail reward, all as part of South Dakota’s new Nest Predator Bounty Program.

The intended goal of this grisly exercise, introduced by Gov. Kristi Noem, is to increase the state’s pheasant population for hunters. To incentivize the killing, the taxpayer-funded agency has already given away more than 16,000 traps to residents and paid out $150,000 in bounties.

The program claims to promote awareness and education while training a new generation in conservation and wildlife management. But instead it is training residents, especially children, to kill needlessly. The state has issued traps to children as young as three years old, and the agency’s social media page features photos of grinning kids holding up the lifeless animals they helped trap.

Wildlife managers have long known such predator bounties to be ineffective. Mass killing of predators often causes surviving animals to reproduce at higher rates and bounce back in greater numbers. Also, when these species of predators are culled, others like crows, magpies, snakes, coyotes and feral dogs move in.

There is no scientific evidence that killing the animals the program targets will result in more pheasants. The survival and health of pheasant populations depends primarily on weather and suitable habitat. Despite this, Gov. Noem worked with Secretary Kelly Hepler of the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks agency to force the program through regulatory approval.

There is also no clear support among a majority of the state’s residents for this program. In fact, according to the Argus Leader, only a dozen or so South Dakota residents submitted comments in support of it ahead of the public hearing, while nearly 100 residents opposed it.

Participants in the program are not required to complete any trapping education course; they don’t even have to obtain a trapping license. The wildlife agency gives no guidance on how to humanely kill trapped animals or deal with domestic pets captured in the traps. Trapped animals can die slowly from shock, dehydration, starvation or exposure. The creatures who do survive long enough for the trapper to return are often killed inhumanely, by drowning, chest compression, asphyxiation or strangulation.

Mass trapping in the spring is especially cruel to young animals who are orphaned when their mothers are killed. These newborns often die of starvation.

There’s absolutely nothing about this program that South Dakotans can feel good about: it’s expensive, gruesome and unproductive, and it causes untold suffering to animals. If you live in South Dakota, please call or email Governor Noem at 605.773.3212 or, and Secretary Hepler at 605.773.3718 or Ask them, politely, to cease their cruel Nest Predator Bounty Program.

Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. John & Shirley Valney says:

    It is truly horrifying that young people are being taught and encouraged to become brutal killers with no regard for the innocent creatures who have every right to enjoy their lives on this planet we all must share. It really hurts my heart to know such evil exists.

    • Pitbull says:

      Do you eat beef. If so then some animals have died just for you to enjoy you hamburger. The only deference is thay are killing animals themselves.

  2. Dale kringen says:

    Keep in mind this is being done at the TAXPAYERS expense. With traps that are also paid for by the taxpayers.

  3. Jean Mathes says:

    This program is not only cruel, but it is damaging to the ecosystem. All species are interdependent. That means humans too. Do you realize how many insects and grubs just one skunk consumes during its lifetime? You can’t rewrite the science of nature. There is a natural balance that must be maintained and you are upsetting it with your cruel and torturous and very damaging program. If hunters are allowed to continue to dictate to wildlife managers, we are all in a lot of trouble in the very near future.

  4. Martine cuisenaire says:

    Please stop now !!

  5. Faith A Hassan says:

    Cruel Nest Predator Bounty Program .
    Please stop .

  6. donna says:

    inhumane trapping…..

  7. Douglas Traub says:

    The funds for the free traps and bounty program are actually being raided from the license fee fund which is money paid by hunters for hunting licenses. Sadly, the nest predator program is touted by Governor Noem and SDGFP as a program to improve pheasant habitat. Many of the traps were provided to children in suburban areas hundred s of miles from any pheasants. This program was rolled out with no public comment period nor formal input from the GFP commission. Even “thinking outside the box” requires the input of science and experience. These programs should be evaluated at the end of one year, not three as planned. Many of us sportsmen feel the money should be used to expand habitat for game birds, which scientifically and historically does contribute to increased game bird numbers.

  8. Deb says:

    There is a meeting to extend the program on public lands until August 31. Traps needed to be taken off public land on May 1. We need to stop this! On the SDGFP site it says that this years babies are included in the bounty!

  9. Jason says:

    Sounds like an effective program. It will be interesting to see how it plays out

  10. Mathew says:

    I love animals but I hate hunters the animal hunters just kill animals

  11. Paul says:

    This program is a highly effective tool to help control the damage predators have on nesting birds. I strongly support it and wish it was enacted years ago. Studies have shown how much killing just one raccoon can do on duck and pheasant populations and it is time people learn the facts. We can’t depend on motor vehicles driven by liberals to do all the work. You know how guilty they feel for wasting all that gas, NOT. but I do appreciate the effort:) don’t swerve, its more humane.

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