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Wildlife problems? Call this guy

Blake Bappe

Blake Bappe is living his dream job.

As a wildlife damage specialist for the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks, Bappe, 28, hunts coyotes as a part of his duties.

"I went to college specifically for this job," said Bappe, a South Dakota State University graduate. "I grew up coyote hunting and predator trapping, so I love doing this."

Bappe, a native of Hartford, transferred from Webster to Mitchell in early August. He's now the first wildlife damage specialist based in Mitchell and recently started his regular duties, which include animal damage control and and wildlife damage management. Wildlife damage specialists work directly with landowners to alleviate or reduce all types of wildlife damage to private property.

Bappe, who took the job in Mitchell to be closer to his girlfriend, works with landowners in all of Hanson, Davison, Hutchinson and Bon Homme counties and two partial counties in western Yankton and western McCook counties.

"Usually, we handle badgers digging in yards or cemeteries, coyotes attacking calves or sheep or beavers damming up drainage areas," Bappe said. "We'll also handle deer, goose and turkey depredation complaints.

"We also get mountain lion investigation calls quite a bit. A lot of people think there are a lot of mountain lions when really they're just dog tracks."

The GF&P created the new Division of Wildlife Damage Management Program position in Mitchell from license surcharge money. In March, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed a bill allowing a $1 surcharge increase on certain hunting licenses for predator control purposes. The extra money helped create three new wildlife damage specialist positions across the state for areas needing additional focus on wildlife damage control and management. Those new positions are based in Mitchell, Webster and Philip, and there are now 27 wildlife damage specialists in the state.

Bappe has worked full time with the GF&P since 2009. He's also completed two summer internships and was a seasonal worker for one summer with the GF&P.

Bappe works in a Mitchell office at 3200 W. Havens Ave. with three other GF&P employees, including local Conservation Officer Andy Petersen, Resource Biologist Adam Sedivy and Wildlife Investigator Jeff McEntee. Bappe can be contacted at (605) 323-9001. Other wildlife damage specialists can be found and contacted on the South Dakota GF&P website.