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South Dakota bill wants to spend $300,000 on 'aerial predator' hunting of rising coyote population

The House agriculture committee approved sending the funding request to the joint appropriations committee. Ranchers say airborne hunting -- a pilot and a gunner -- are needed to thin a coyote population threatening livestock.

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PIERRE, S.D. — It was University of South Dakota day at the statehouse on Thursday, Feb. 10 — but not necessarily a good day for coyotes.

The House Agriculture Committee unanimously approved sending to the Joint Committee on Appropriations House Bill 1276 , which would add $300,000 to the state's "aerial predator" program.

Prime sponsor Rep. Charlie Hoffman, R-Eureka, described the spend as helping up the ante in ranchers' longstanding fight against a coyote population that they argue endangers livestock.

"[The money would] go for the use of airplanes," said Hoffman. "'Aerial predator control' means they would have a pilot and a gunner, and they go fly over land [to hunt coyotes]." The money would be directed to both the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources as well as Game, Fish and Parks, Hoffman said.

Members on the committee agree the coyote population was growing.

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"Within 100 miles of my house, every weekend in the winter, there's a coyote calling contest," said Rep. Oren Lesmeister, D-Parade. "And every [call] can bring in 100 coyotes. You think this is not a coyote problem? No, it's a coyote problem."

Rep. Sam Marty, R-Prairie City, asked why Hoffman's bill didn't target airborne predators.

"They decimate the land," said Marty. "I mean, why aren't eagles and raptor birds mitigated?"

Hoffman pointed out that many birds are federally protected under a migratory law.

The committee heard supporting testimony from the South Dakota Cattlemen's Association and an outfitter's group.

A representative of the Bureau of Finance and Management asked the bill be referred to appropriations as "general fund revenues have not yet been adopted."

As recently as 2018 , GFP's Wildlife Damage Management program — which has long incorporated the use of an airplane — recorded 1,363 requests for help related to the taking of cattle or sheep by coyotes or foxes.

Christopher Vondracek is the South Dakota correspondent for Forum News Service. Contact Vondracek at cvondracek@forumcomm.com , or follow him on Twitter: @ChrisVondracek .

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MORE FROM CHRISTOPHER VONDRACEK:
The state's biggest political leaders have touted inbound migration, so-called "blue state refugees" who flooded South Dakota. But the biggest driver of partisan races this coming summer and fall appears to be a redistricting process, log-jamming Republicans in primaries and opening up new turf for Democrats.

Christopher Vondracek covers South Dakota news for Forum News Service. Email him at cvondracek@forumcomm.com or follow him on Twitter at @ChrisVondracek.
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