PIERRE -- Meat processors in South Dakota could donate wild game that hunters don't claim, under a new rule proposed by the state Game, Fish and Parks Commission.
The plan would let processors declare wild game as abandoned after a certain length of time. The meat then could be given to a charitable organization that distributes food to needy people.
"Once a hunter harvests game in South Dakota, it in essence becomes private property," Emmett Keyser, a regional Wildlife Division supervisor, told commissioners at their monthly meeting last week.
Waterfowl, because they are federally regulated, wouldn't be covered by the abandonment rule, according to Keyser.
He said discussions are under way with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials about securing approval to cover waterfowl, too.
"Believe it or not, the meat from those Canada geese is highly sought after," Keyser said.
USFWS allows geese to be donated if they are taken as part of population reduction hunts.
The commission will hold a public hearing on the proposed rule at 2 p.m. CDT July 8 at the Holiday Inn Express in Fort Pierre.
The hunter and processor would need to agree on a time frame when abandonment would be triggered. This could be done through a sign on the wall or placing a statement on the form used when game is left, Keyser said.
State law prohibits sale of big-game animals.
The exchange of meat for the processing cost "essentially is a sale," Keyser said. "The statute is very clear and it seems to be very limiting."
Requiring a deposit would allow the processor to avoid being stuck with the cost.