Georgia Legislation Allows Year-Round Hunting And Trapping For Raccoons And Possums
Citing the concerning decline in wild turkey populations across Georgia, state legislators passed House Bill 1147 that would allow year-round hunting and trapping of raccoons and opossums. The bill was approved by the Georgia State House with a 141-17 vote, and it passed the State Senate by a 44-10 vote. The legislation is now awaiting a signature by Gov. Brian Kemp to become law.
Rep. Trey Rhodes (R-Greensboro) is an avid turkey hunter, and he introduced the bill along with Rep. John Corbett (R-Lake Park), Rep. John LaHood (R-Valdosta), Rep. Jason Ridley (R-Chatsworth), and Rep. Tyler Paul Smith (R-Bremen). Rep. Rhodes said he has witnessed first-hand turkey populations dwindle over his lifetime, and he said Georgia’s annual turkey harvest reports from WRD make it clear that Georgia hunters are taking fewer gobblers.
“Bottom line, we’ve got an overpopulation right now of raccoons and possums,” Rep. Rhodes said during a legislative meeting. “They’re really taking a toll on our nesting game birds.”
There has been an alarming decline in the number of poults (baby turkeys) that are being seen in Georgia. Researchers and biologists say mature gobblers being killed too early in the breeding season is a negative factor impacting turkey reproduction. Georgia’s turkey harvest has declined about 30% in recent years.
However, many land managers and hunters have been concerned that nest predation by raccoons and possums is a factor in the drastic reduction of poults.
Once Gov. Kemp signs House Bill 1147 into law, the Board of Natural Resources would still have the authority to set raccoon and opossum seasons. The law previously stated that raccoon and opossum hunting seasons had to fall within a framework of Oct. 15 to Feb. 28. Now, HB 1147 changes that law to say “no closed season, except as may be adopted by the Board.”
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