PIERRE | The Legislature has one step left for final approval of an additional $1 surcharge on hunting licenses in South Dakota to help raise more money for predator control.
There also is a movement under way to increase the amounts that county predator districts can levy on livestock producers.
The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee endorsed both measures Thursday. Their prime sponsor is Rep. Betty Olson, R-Prairie City.
The $1 surcharge for hunters could come up for debate by the full Senate on Monday. It sailed through the Senate hearing on a 7-1 vote, with Chris Hesla of the South Dakota Wildlife Federation the only witness testifying against it.
Hunters already pay a $5 surcharge on most licenses for animal-damage control and public hunting access. Hesla said hunters are paying more than their fair share in comparison to landowners.
State Wildlife Division Director Tony Leif said the additional dollar would generate about $320,000 on top of the approximately $900,000 currently in the Animal Damage Control budget of the Game, Fish & Parks Department. Leif said the coyote population is up and he could put more boots on the ground and in the air for more hours.
“This is a viable solution,” he said.
Leif said he also supports the $300,000 one-time funding that Senate Republican leader Russ Olson of Wentworth has proposed. That bill will be discussed Monday by the House Appropriations Committee.
Leif said that money would come in time “to get right after the problem this spring” until the $1 surcharge starts producing more revenue this fall.
Several senators didn’t take kindly to Hesla’s position, nor did Olson.
“There’s nobody that’s got more skin in the game than the producers right now,” she said. “We’re running out of money, and we’re running out of livestock and we’re running out of wildlife up there.”
Jene Jansen, an archery hunter from Ashton, told the committee that coyotes are numerous and don’t seem to be spooked by him in the field. But he has seen wildlife, especially deer, acting differently.
“The game has changed their tactics, and they’re living in fear of these coyotes,” he said.
Another bill was changed by the committee to allow larger levies on livestock producers for predator control.
County commissioners could collect up to $1 per sheep at least six months old and all cattle at least one year old and not in feedlots on Jan. 1 each year. The current limits are 25 cents for sheep and six cents for cattle.
The Senate panel approved those changes on a 8-1 vote. If the full Senate agrees next week, the legislation, HB1168, would need to return to the House for a decision.