Law officers have trouble policing South Dakota hunting

Sioux Falls, S.D. (AP) – Law enforcement agencies find it difficult to police hunting in South Dakota because the state does not require guides or lodge owners to be registered, officials said.

A Maryland man who once owned a hunting lodge in Rosyln and five of his guides have been indicted on poaching charges, but officials said the undercover operation that led to the charges is not typical for fish and wildlife enforcement in South Dakota.

"I have two agents for South Dakota and two for North Dakota,'' Rich Grosz, who is in charge of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement in the Dakotas, told the Argus Leader of Sioux Falls.

"We don't have the resources to be in everybody's back pocket.''

The Fish and Wildlife Service also relies on state wardens from the Game, Fish and Parks Department for information that could lead to undercover operations. Hunters tip off local wardens through the Turn in Poachers hotline.

Grosz said that before the federal agency brings in out-of-state agents and pays thousands of dollars for a waterfowl hunt, they must have evidence of violations. A list of hunting operations or a licensing system that requires training for guides and lodge owners about regulations and emergency medical skills could help law officers, he said.

Bruce Prins, who runs Prairie Sky Ranch in Veblen, agreed, saying outfitters who let hunters exceed limits or step around the rules put more pressure on others.

"There's no reason South Dakota shouldn't have some kind of guide regulations,'' Prins said. "Maybe if we licensed guides, some of this stuff wouldn't happen.''

John Cooper, a former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent who later directed the state Game, Fish and Parks Department, said the lack of a reliable list of outfitters or a licensing system is a persistent issue among lodge owners, law officers and South Dakota legislators.

Cooper said the Legislature would have to establish such a system. Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota and Colorado have registration systems, but South Dakota's hunting interests have never agreed on a plan to present to the Legislature.

"It never seems to get any traction,'' Cooper said.

Andy Alban, law enforcement administrator for the state Game, Fish and Parks Department, said any licensing system would cost the state because of the staff and management needed to make it work.

"On the surface, it would seem easy to solve, but when you look at the details, it's anything but easy,'' Alban said.

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