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Bill would allow artificial light to be used in coyote hunting

South Dakota's Senate agriculture committee adjourns without taking a vote on bill after hearing opposing testimony.

FSA South Dakota capitol
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PIERRE, S.D. — A South Dakota senate committee will delay action on a bill to allow artificial light in night-hunting of coyotes and other critters — without a permit — on public lands, while the prime sponsor considers an amendment.

Sen. Mike Rohl , R-Aberdeen, the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 73 , says such a measure would bring the state up-to-date with a number of other states that do allow artificial light, including night vision, to be used to hunt after sundown.

"I think our citizens deserve that same right, if we know we have a coyote problem," Rohl said. "If we don't have a predator problem, I'm not sure why we're paying half-a-million dollars for a tail program."

SB 73 would provide for the use of artificial light and night-vision equipment while hunting coyotes "and other predators."

Rohl preempted a number of safety concerns, noting that artificial light — far from an undue advantage over the animals — would aid individuals in keeping their wits about them on darkened terrain or knowing if others are hunting the same land.

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"[Currently] when you walk into a public land to night-hunt, you have no way to know if there are other people out there," Rohl argued.

But Paul Lepisto, a lobbyist for the Izaak Walton League, countered that those states require persons hunting at night and using artificial light to be permitted, a requirement Rohl's bill does not specify.

"To do this ethically and safely, somebody should be permitted to do this," Lepisto said.

Nancy Hilding, a lobbyist with the Prairie Hills Audubon Society, also objected, saying opening up night-vision hunting on public lands would further endanger at-risk animals.

"How will people at night know which fox or skunk they're shooting at?" Hilding asked.

Under South Dakota law, hunting by "ambient light," or moonlight, is allowed in some instances, often to take coyotes. But Game, Fish, and Parks Wildlife Division Director Tom Kirschenmann, who opposed Rohl's bill, says such hunting is "very seldom" done.

"The current statute ... does allow for that night-vision and artificial light to be used on private land," said Kirschenmann, noting landowners can bring up to two guests on a hunt.

He added GFP officers will also use night-vision to cull coyotes involved in livestock deprivation.

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Ultimately, the Senate Agriculture committee adjourned without taking a vote on Rohl's bill. It's expected to return at a later date with an amendment.

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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