PIERRE, S.D. —The fate of South Dakota’s Nest Predator Bounty Program will be determined during a South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission meeting Thursday, March 5.

Hundreds of public comments opposing the continuation of the program have been submitted online on the department’s website. The Nest Predator Bounty Program offers a bounty per tail for raccoons, striped skunks, badgers, opossums and red fox. The idea is that by removing nest predators from the landscape, the population of pheasant, ducks and other ground nesting birds will increase.

Those comments contradict a public survey coordinated by the state Game, Fish and Parks Department, according to a resolution to continue the program.

Kristin Wileman, press secretary for Gov. Kristi Noem, issued a statement Friday, Feb. 28, on the program, which stems from Noem’s Second Century Initiative.

“The mission of the Second Century Initiative is to get families outside together. Last year, we saw great success from the Nest Predator Bounty Program, a part of this initiative, and received broad public support,” the statement read. “An independent survey showed that 83% of the general public supported the program. The governor is committed to the mission of the Second Century Initiative and looks forward to working with GFP to further enhance the nest predator bounty program and expand outdoor opportunities for families.”

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The department is requesting $250,000 for the Nest Predator Bounty Fund to pay out a $5 per-tail bounty. The proposal also includes expanding the program to include shooting nest predators in addition to trapping. Eligible species include raccoons, striped skunks, badgers, opossums and red fox.

Some comments centered around the ethics of trapping and how often traps should be checked. Under current state trapping regulations, a trap must be checked within two days if placed east of the Missouri River and every three days if the trap is placed west of the Missouri River.

B. Radtke of Redfield submitted a comment asking the state to “stop wasting taxpayer money on the cruelty of trapping.”

“If you continue to waste my money on this, at the least require traps be checked every day!” Radtke wrote. “If predator control is truly needed, emphasizing the varmint shooting license would be preferable, as long as it requires the hunter to ascertain the animal is dead and not left to suffer like trapped animals.”

Marian Westbrook of Nisland wrote in support of the program, though she also added the caveat that traps need to be checked daily.

Most of the comments that filled over a hundred pages on the GF&P website were in opposition to the program entirely.

Carolyn Ellington, Rapid City, asked the state to not run the program again.

“This program is not based on scientific data,” Ellington wrote. “The data actually shows that loss of habitat is the reason for the declining quail population. It is an expensive program that is not needed, especially in a year where state funds are low.”

Dana Rogers of Hill City wrote, “I have no issue with South Dakota putting a bounty on predators to encourage further take and management to benefit wildlife. What I do see as an issue is that our hunters dollars have been 'diverted' from needed programs like improving habitat and gaining more public lands for hunters to access.”

Rogers said that the money to fund the program should be taken from other budgets, not the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department budget.

Habitat loss was another theme among comments in opposition to the program.

Kendra Koski, Winner, wrote the program is expensive and “has had no impact on the declining pheasant population.”

“The only way to increase the population is by increasing (the Conservation Reserve Program) and other programs to combat habitat loss. Trapping is cruel, and leaving animals to suffer for days to die of shock is a brutal death. This program needs to stop. Nest predators are not the problem, overhunting and habitat loss is the real culprit behind declining pheasant numbers,” Koski said.

Darci Adams of Hartford alleged no scientific evidence supports the program’s goal of increasing pheasant and duck populations in South Dakota.

“The program exists purely to promote the unnecessary and inhumane sport of trapping in South Dakota,” Adams wrote. “Trapping causes needless suffering of animals left to languish in traps for days.”

Charlotte Petrick, Rapid City, said she has hunted and fished in the state for over 50 years. “I eat what I kill. I wear leather and fur. I have nothing against ethical trapping,” Petrick wrote. “I'm ashamed of South Dakota's Nest Predator Bounty Program. Wanton killing for profit is wrong. Thousands of native animals are being killed and wasted to protect a non-native commodity.”