GFP commissioner calls for end to beaver hunting in Black Hills

Courtesy photo

WATERTOWN — A proposal to extend beaver hunting to a year-round season across the state has been put on hold while the S.D. Department of Game, Fish and Parks studies whether it would be prudent to ban beaver hunting in the Black Hills.

The idea came up as the S.D. Game, Fish and Parks Commission discussed a proposal to create a year-round beaver hunting season across the state, with hunting only allowed in portions of the Black Hills not owned by the U.S. Forest Service from Nov. 1 to April 30.

“Similar to western South Dakota, landowners in eastern South Dakota deal with damage issues caused by beaver year-round,” the proposal states. “By creating one statewide beaver season (with the exception of the Black Hills) that is year-round, it simplifies this regulation and allows landowners in eastern South Dakota the ability to remove beavers that are causing damage.”

Keith Fisk, program administrator for the game, fish and parks, said he receives at least 500 beaver complaints on an annual basis.

“There are a number of landowners out there that would take advantage of this opportunity to remove some of those problem beavers whether it is them practicing that or someone they know willing to come and help them out,” Fisk said. “Beavers can cause significant damage.”

But Commissioner Travis Bies said the Black Hills does not have problems with beavers, and the population has been greatly decreased.

“I grew up in the Black Hills all my life and have seen the beaver disappear out of the Black Hills,” he said. “They created better water for our cattle. About 15-20 years ago I noticed the beavers were gone, so we had to refill the dams ourselves. I don’t know where I could go to find a beaver dam today. They do create a lot of recreation opportunities for fishing. We need to find some way of re-establishing them in the Black Hills.”

Bies called for a study of the beaver population in the Black Hills to determine whether to allow even a shorter hunting season.

“I think we would be surprised to find that there are very few,” he said.

Bies’ suggestion prompted the Game, Fish and Parks Commission to table the beaver hunting season proposal to its September meeting, in favor of collecting public input about the new idea and studying the beaver population in the Black Hills.

In a separate action, members of the commission increased the limit of river otters from 15 to 20. The hunting season started last year with a season limit of 15 otters. This year, the season will run from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31, or until the harvest limit of 20 has been reached.

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