The Georgia legislature recently passed a bill to authorize the hunting and trapping of raccoons and opossums year-round. The bill is now sitting on Governor Kemp’s desk awaiting his signature.
Georgia HB 1147 was sponsored by Rep. Trey Rhodes [R], ]Rep. John Corbett [R], Rep. John LaHood [R], Rep. Jason Ridley [R], Rep. Tyler Smith [R], Rep. Steven Sainz [R], and Sen. Tyler Harper [R].
Supporters of the bill believe an open season on raccoons and opossums may give private landowners the flexibility needed to bring the nest predators under control and help turn the tide on declining turkey and quail populations. Most notable of those supporters was the Georgia Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.
Proponents say there is no scientific justification for the bill and believe it won’t provide any benefit to wildlife or hunting. The Georgia Wildlife Federation was one of the key organizations lobbying against HB 1147. They believe allowing hunting and trapping while raccoons and opossums are caring for their young will do more harm than good by fueling anti-hunting sentiment. You can read their full comments regarding the bill below.
Keep in mind that this bill just sets the raccoon and opossum season framework to allow year-round hunting. Georgia’s DNR Board will still have the ultimate authority to set actual hunt dates and closed seasons, so it remains to be seen whether hunters will actually get to pursue the animals year-round. The bill does allow for year-round trapping of raccoons and opossums.
It is unclear whether the Georgia DNR supports the passage of this bill.
We would love to hear your thoughts on HB 1147 in the comments section below.
Georgia Wildlife Federation’s Comments on HB 1174
This is bad legislation that provides no benefit to wildlife or to hunting. There is no scientific justification for HB 1147.
HB 1147 provides the statutory framework that would allow year-round hunting and trapping of both raccoons and opossum. The DNR Board of Directors could specifically establish closed hunting seasons within the legislation framework, but the legislation is clearly aimed at allowing year-round hunting. It also allows that raccoons and opossum (traditionally game animals) be added to the list of beaver, rats and mice (traditionally nuisance animals) that are allowed to be trapped year-round.
There are some interesting relics in our state game laws. Some of our state’s legally recognized game animals, sea turtles and cougars, allow no open hunting season. However, this bill would make opossums and raccoons the only game animals for which we provide no closed season. We would allow hunting of raccoons while they are rearing their kits; we would allow hunting of opossum while they are rearing their joeys – an extraordinary measure towards animals that are considered part of our public trust and public heritage. Perhaps an extraordinary measure that violates our own ethical standards.
We understand there is anecdotal evidence of increasing populations of raccoons and opossum. Further, we understand both are efficient nest predators. We also understand that both species currently have no bag limits under current state law (hunting regulations DO have a daily limit of 3 for raccoons), and this does not appear to be sufficient to control the population. Furthermore, hunting of these species is often done without harvesting the animal – they are “treed” by dogs and left, certainly having little effect on the adults but likely providing potential problems for the young animals in the spring and early summer. The fundamental problem with the legislation is a lack of any scientific justification. In all likelihood, this proposal would accomplish nothing while empowering opposition to hunting.
The most likely culprit of these expanding populations (if they are indeed expanding) is the incredible amount of “deer” corn being put in the landscape since Georgia allowed killing deer over bait. We are likely seeing a dramatic increase in opportunistic species such as raccoons and opossum due to the easy availability of wildlife feed in the woods. Elimination of artificial feeding would, in all likelihood, be much more efficient in controlling these nest predators, along with feral hogs and other nuisance species, while maintaining balance in our hunting woods.
There are already remedies for nuisance animals. Landowner furbearer permits are available for furbearer control for larger rural landowners – they only have to submit an application with a simple management plan. Urban/suburban folks can apply for a permit or contract with a wildlife trapper.
Where there IS science, in things like hunter recruitment, ethics is a primary motivation. Proposals such as this, with little or no scientific justification, simply erect barriers to entry and allow hunting opposition to grow.