Wildlife Damage Management, Internet Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Proceedings of Great Plains Wildlife Damage Control Workshop, December 10, 11, and 12, 1973, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas. Edited by F. Robert Henderson.


South Dakota, like virtually all other states, is subject to economic losses from wildlife depredations. We have been in the government sponsored, animal damage control business perhaps longer than some states - our history dates back to the time of Three-toes and the Custer Wolf. In 1973 we are still in that business, perhaps more intensively than ever before, and we regard animal damage control as one of the most pervasive and difficult to solve wildlife problems facing us.

The Missouri River bisects South Dakota into approximately equal "East River" and "West River" land areas. These differ ecologically, and to a lesser extent politically, in several respects. From an agricultural standpoint, we are somewhat unique in that we have both small-farm and ranching enterprises differing in size, intensity of land use, and primary crops or livestock types produced. West River areas include a diversity of geomorphic land forms including prairie, sagebrush grasslands, river breaks, badlands, and mountains. All support ranching operations and each presents unique animal damage control problems. East River farms are smaller and livestock generally is more confined. Many East River counties contain 75 or more percent cropland, but those bordering the Missouri River or in the north-eastern corner of the state are characterized by large areas mainly suitable for grazing.

East and West River areas raise approximately equal numbers of sheep. Coyotes occur across the state but are much more numerous in West River. Red foxes also occur statewide and in recent years they have apparently increased markedly in northwestern South Dakota. Both the coyote and the fox prey upon sheep~ This type of wildlife inflicted damage receives by far more publicity in the state than other depredations but in dollar-loss terms it is not the most important. Removal of grassland vegetation by rodents such as prairie dogs, ground squirrels and pocket gophers far outranks predation on sheep economically and has a much greater impact on the South Dakota agricultural economy. A great deal of the energy devoted to animal damage control in South Dakota is, however, directed at protecting the sheepgrower from coyote and fox depredations.