Ranchers worried about shift in SD trappers | TSLN.com

Ranchers worried about shift in SD trappers

Steve Miller

TSLN photo by Doug HoganA plan to shift three state trappers from western South Dakota to east of the Missouri River has many producers worried about their sheep and cattle.

A plan to shift three state trappers from western South Dakota to east of the Missouri River could result in more coyotes killing more livestock, West River ranchers say.

South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks officials say they understand the concern, but that the shift is needed to deal with a steep drop in federal funds for the state’s Animal Damage Control program and with increasing crop damage caused by Canada geese in eastern South Dakota.

The shift will leave just four state trappers in Region 1, west of the Missouri, down from seven last year, according to Steve Clements of Philip, president of the South Dakota Sheepgrowers Association. One of those trappers deals solely with mountain lion issues. In addition, the other three trappers, like many of those working East River, will also be doing some non-Animal Damage Control work, further reducing time for killing coyotes, Clements said.

Clements said the three trappers for all of western South Dakota won’t be able to keep up with complaints of coyotes killing lambs and calves.

In his area, he said, two trappers used to have responsibility for Bennett, Jackson and Haakon counties and part of Pennington County. Now one trapper will have to cover the area, he said.

Clark Blake, a Harding County rancher who is president of the Multi-County Predator Control District, agrees that the shift could spell more problems for sheep and cattle ranchers.

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One trapper, instead of two, will now be responsible for the area from Harding County south to Interstate 90, according to Art Smith, wildlife damage management program administrator for the GF&P.

Another trapper will be responsible for the area from Perkins County south to SD Highway 34 in Meade County. Smith said GF&P is working to try to get help for that area from a trapper to the east in Corson, Ziebach and Dewey counties.

Blake echoed Clements’ concerns about the smaller number of trappers being able to keep up with coyote complaints. “We’ve got more coyotes than ever, but they’ve (GF&P) run such an inefficient, ineffective program the last numbers of years that the producers have quit calling them,” he said.

Blake and fellow Harding County rancher Larry Nelson, president of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, say that much of the burden for controlling coyotes has fallen on the producers because even with seven trappers, the state program wasn’t keeping up.

“The districts and the individuals have been shouldering more of that burden all the time,” Nelson said.

Blake said members of his district assess themselves and hire their own aerial crews to kill coyotes.

Even though mange had dropped coyote numbers in recent years, they are rebounding, say Blake and Clements.

Clements worries about getting trappers or the state plane this spring when they have so many demands on them. “We’ll be pasture lambing in a couple of weeks. I’m sitting wide open,” he said. “If those coyotes come through, they’ll kill those little lambs.”

GF&P’s Smith says he understands the ranchers’ concerns.

But he said the GF&P didn’t have a better option than to restructure in the face of a major loss of federal money and increasing East River crop damage by Canada geese.

The federal funding problems are coming after more than three decades of substantial support from the feds for the state’s wildlife damage program, Smith said. He said federal funding averaged nearly $600,000 from 2002 to 2006. But for 2007, Congress eliminated the money, despite efforts by GF&P and Sen. Tim Johnson, D-SD, who sits on the Senate Ag Appropriations Subcommittee.

The USDA’s Wildlife Services division came up with $277,000 to keep the South Dakota program alive in 2007, and Congress appropriated $402,000 for 2008, with part of that money going to pay Wildlife Services for taking over aerial predator control in South Dakota.

The state program gets about $300,000 each year from the counties, and the GF&P provides a 2-1 match of about $600,000, Smith said.

Smith said the program previously had 19 state trappers and four wildlife damage management specialists who dealt with grazing problems, mainly from deer, elk, turkey and geese. The program is keeping 23 positions, with one staffer handling mountain lions in West River and one handling mostly beaver in northeast South Dakota. The remainder will perform a mix of duties, including predator control and wildlife damage management, Smith said.

“The alternative was to drop from 19 trappers to 11 trappers,” Smith said. “The choice of remaining status quo was not there. We simply do not have the money for that.”

At the same time the federal funds began to diminish, the department was hearing increasing complaints about crop damage by Canada geese. “Frankly, we hadn’t done a very good job with that,” Smith said.

Smith said the East River wildlife damage problems are just as important as those West River.

“What’s happening is that one group is seeing that they’re losing something – and rightfully so. They believe they need to have that service,” Smith said. “But they don’t see what the other group is seeing. This is a statewide program, not a regional one.”

So, three positions are being moved east. Those lateral transfers are being processed now, Smith said Thursday.

But Smith said the staffing shifts are not set in stone.

He said if East River trappers aren’t busy, they could be sent back out west for a time to help with coyote control. It could work the other way, too, with West River trappers heading east to help with Canada goose control, assuming they’re not busy with coyotes.

But he said he believes further cuts in staffing for the wildlife damage management program won’t be necessary because the permanent parts of the program are being funded only by the county and state funds. The reduced federal money will be used only for temporary expenses, such as seasonal staff.

A plan to shift three state trappers from western South Dakota to east of the Missouri River could result in more coyotes killing more livestock, West River ranchers say.

South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks officials say they understand the concern, but that the shift is needed to deal with a steep drop in federal funds for the state’s Animal Damage Control program and with increasing crop damage caused by Canada geese in eastern South Dakota.

The shift will leave just four state trappers in Region 1, west of the Missouri, down from seven last year, according to Steve Clements of Philip, president of the South Dakota Sheepgrowers Association. One of those trappers deals solely with mountain lion issues. In addition, the other three trappers, like many of those working East River, will also be doing some non-Animal Damage Control work, further reducing time for killing coyotes, Clements said.

Clements said the three trappers for all of western South Dakota won’t be able to keep up with complaints of coyotes killing lambs and calves.

In his area, he said, two trappers used to have responsibility for Bennett, Jackson and Haakon counties and part of Pennington County. Now one trapper will have to cover the area, he said.

Clark Blake, a Harding County rancher who is president of the Multi-County Predator Control District, agrees that the shift could spell more problems for sheep and cattle ranchers.

One trapper, instead of two, will now be responsible for the area from Harding County south to Interstate 90, according to Art Smith, wildlife damage management program administrator for the GF&P.

Another trapper will be responsible for the area from Perkins County south to SD Highway 34 in Meade County. Smith said GF&P is working to try to get help for that area from a trapper to the east in Corson, Ziebach and Dewey counties.

Blake echoed Clements’ concerns about the smaller number of trappers being able to keep up with coyote complaints. “We’ve got more coyotes than ever, but they’ve (GF&P) run such an inefficient, ineffective program the last numbers of years that the producers have quit calling them,” he said.

Blake and fellow Harding County rancher Larry Nelson, president of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, say that much of the burden for controlling coyotes has fallen on the producers because even with seven trappers, the state program wasn’t keeping up.

“The districts and the individuals have been shouldering more of that burden all the time,” Nelson said.

Blake said members of his district assess themselves and hire their own aerial crews to kill coyotes.

Even though mange had dropped coyote numbers in recent years, they are rebounding, say Blake and Clements.

Clements worries about getting trappers or the state plane this spring when they have so many demands on them. “We’ll be pasture lambing in a couple of weeks. I’m sitting wide open,” he said. “If those coyotes come through, they’ll kill those little lambs.”

GF&P’s Smith says he understands the ranchers’ concerns.

But he said the GF&P didn’t have a better option than to restructure in the face of a major loss of federal money and increasing East River crop damage by Canada geese.

The federal funding problems are coming after more than three decades of substantial support from the feds for the state’s wildlife damage program, Smith said. He said federal funding averaged nearly $600,000 from 2002 to 2006. But for 2007, Congress eliminated the money, despite efforts by GF&P and Sen. Tim Johnson, D-SD, who sits on the Senate Ag Appropriations Subcommittee.

The USDA’s Wildlife Services division came up with $277,000 to keep the South Dakota program alive in 2007, and Congress appropriated $402,000 for 2008, with part of that money going to pay Wildlife Services for taking over aerial predator control in South Dakota.

The state program gets about $300,000 each year from the counties, and the GF&P provides a 2-1 match of about $600,000, Smith said.

Smith said the program previously had 19 state trappers and four wildlife damage management specialists who dealt with grazing problems, mainly from deer, elk, turkey and geese. The program is keeping 23 positions, with one staffer handling mountain lions in West River and one handling mostly beaver in northeast South Dakota. The remainder will perform a mix of duties, including predator control and wildlife damage management, Smith said.

“The alternative was to drop from 19 trappers to 11 trappers,” Smith said. “The choice of remaining status quo was not there. We simply do not have the money for that.”

At the same time the federal funds began to diminish, the department was hearing increasing complaints about crop damage by Canada geese. “Frankly, we hadn’t done a very good job with that,” Smith said.

Smith said the East River wildlife damage problems are just as important as those West River.

“What’s happening is that one group is seeing that they’re losing something – and rightfully so. They believe they need to have that service,” Smith said. “But they don’t see what the other group is seeing. This is a statewide program, not a regional one.”

So, three positions are being moved east. Those lateral transfers are being processed now, Smith said Thursday.

But Smith said the staffing shifts are not set in stone.

He said if East River trappers aren’t busy, they could be sent back out west for a time to help with coyote control. It could work the other way, too, with West River trappers heading east to help with Canada goose control, assuming they’re not busy with coyotes.

But he said he believes further cuts in staffing for the wildlife damage management program won’t be necessary because the permanent parts of the program are being funded only by the county and state funds. The reduced federal money will be used only for temporary expenses, such as seasonal staff.