Too many Kansas raccoons? Wildlife officials agree, extend hunting season

Too many Kansas raccoons? Wildlife officials agree, extend hunting season

TOPEKA (KSNT) – Top Kansas wildlife officials are consenting to an extended hunting season for raccoons and opossums in 2024.

The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) held a meeting in Topeka on March 28 to discuss possible changes to K.A.R. 115-25-11 regarding raccoon and opossum hunting seasons and hunting methods. This includes extending the season to year-round but limiting traps used outside the existing furbearer season to cage and foot encapsulating or dog-proof type traps.

KDWP Wildlife Research Biologist Matt Peek gave a presentation on the possible changes during the meeting. He said discussion on the extended seasons has been around for many years.

“Raccoon population has been on a long-term, like 40-year population increase in the state,” Peek said. “And the population of raccoons is thought by some to be having a detrimental impact on some species either indirectly as a disease vector. Particularly, I’ve brought up in the past, canine distemper impacting gray fox populations potentially being maintained by raccoons.”

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Canine distemper (CD) is a worry for pet owners in Kansas as the virus is known to cause serious illnesses, sometimes even fatal, for unvaccinated dogs. Other animals like skunks, foxes and coyotes can also be infected by the virus. The Emporia Police Department warned local pet owners of a possible increase in cases of CD earlier this month.

Peek went on to say the changes were being considered to help some game species bounce back. Birds like turkey and quail both are both negatively impacted by the increasing raccoon numbers in Kansas.

“Our average harvest has declined for raccoon by over 50% since about 2015 and since that time pelt prices have been below the cost of actually… of running a trap line for them,” Peek said.

While Peek admitted the year-round season raccoons likely wouldn’t “result in any meaningful population level effect,” it is a popular theme among members of the fur harvesting community. KDWP commissioners then took a vote on the hunting season changes, resulting in a unanimous decision to approve them.

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The statewide running raccoon and opossum hunting season lasts from March 1 to Nov. 8 in 2024. The upcoming furbearer hunting and trapping season for these species runs from Nov. 13, 2024 to Feb. 15, 2025, according to the KDWP’s website. To watch the full KDWP Commission meeting from March 28, click here.

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