Ozark Outdoors

More than 6,500 feral hogs removed from Missouri landscape in 2017

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Feral hog strike teams tallied up significant feral hog elimination numbers for 2017. A total of 6,567 feral hogs were removed in Missouri by partner agencies and private landowners. Here six adults and 23 “squealers” scramble for an easy meal at a feeder. Feral pigs have been shown to be hosts for at least 34 pathogens that can be transmitted to livestock, wildlife, and humans.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) feral hog strike team has tallied up elimination numbers for 2017. The year yielded a total of 6,567 feral hogs removed by partner agencies and private landowners, a 23 percent increase over 2016, when 5,358 feral hogs were removed from the landscape.

Crews in southeast Missouri removed 2,858 feral hogs, where the highest density of feral hogs occurs. The Ozarks region removed 2,576 and the Southwest region removed 932 feral hogs. Other regions across Missouri had around 100 or fewer feral hogs removed.

“We’re seeing positive impacts in areas with smaller feral hog populations, such as on the western side of the state,” says Mark McLain, MDC’s feral hog elimination team leader. “Our overall success for 2017 can be attributed to our strategic approach to eliminating populations of feral hogs.”

McLain explains it’s essential that the public understand why feral hogs must be eliminated. The natural habitat of wild boar are woodlands; however, feral populations often root and forage in areas where they conflict with human activities, such as in picnic areas, on golf courses, and for some unlucky rural families, too close for comfort as the animals can be dangerous.

“These are a destructive, invasive species that doesn’t belong here; they’re not a native species,” McLain said. “They out-compete native wildlife for habitat and food. For example, places with a lot of feral hogs will see their wild turkey and deer population diminish.”

McLain notes that feral hogs present potential for diseases to spread to humans, pets and livestock and that he hopes the message that hunting is not an effective method for eliminating feral hog populations is starting to catch on. For commercial pig farmers, great concern exists that some of the hogs could be a vector for to return to the U.S., which has been extinct in America since 197

“For over 20 years, unregulated take of feral hogs was allowed in Missouri, during which time our feral hog population expanded from a few counties to over 30 counties,” he notes. In 2017, MDC, the Corps of Engineers and the LAD Foundation established regulations against feral hog hunting on lands owned and managed by these three organizations.

“A persistent piece of this story is continued illegal releases of feral hogs, which establishes populations and further spreads the problem,” McLain says. “This is illegal and when caught, those who release feral hogs face hefty fines.”

McLain explains that the MDC and its many partners are committed to eliminating feral hogs from Missouri. Organizations that have partnered against feral hogs in Missouri include:

  • Missouri Farm Bureau
  • Missouri Corn Growers Association
  • Missouri Soybean Association
  • Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council
  • Missouri Cattlemen’s Association
  • MFA
  • Missouri Pork Association
  • Missouri Agribusiness Association
  • National Wild Turkey Federation
  • Quality Deer Management Association
  • Quail Forever
  • Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation
  • Missouri Rural Water Association
  • Kansas City Agribusiness Club
  • Saint Louis Agribusiness Club
  • Missouri Farmers Care
  • Missouri Department of Natural Resources
  • Missouri Department of Agriculture
  • Conservation Federation of Missouri Charitable Trust
  • AgriServices of Brunswick
  • Missouri Forest Products Association
  • Honey Creek Media
  • Association of Missouri Electrical Cooperatives (AMEC)
  • LAD Foundation
  • USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services
  • Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services
  • USDA Forest Service, Mark Twain National Forest
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • United States Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Ozark National Scenic Riverways (OSNR/NPS)
  • Fort Leonard Wood

Other attributing factors in the success of the feral hog elimination effort include the “Report, don’t shoot” public awareness campaign to encourage trapping and prohibiting the take of feral hogs on conservation areas.

“Landowners and the public are a crucial element of this effort, especially since most land in Missouri is privately owned,” says McLain said. “We must continue to educate on the dangers of feral hogs and engage landowners in elimination efforts.”

McLain notes that landowners are responding to an increased public education campaign, centered on the knowledge that hunting feral hogs is not an effective way to eliminate them. More landowners are starting to understand, and are seeing, that hunting feral hogs pushes them onto neighboring property, which causes problems for their neighbors. When neighboring landowners try to control feral hogs through hunting, the hogs simply travel back and forth between the properties, escape and cause more damage. Trapping with no hunting interference is the best method to eliminate them.

“They’re [landowners] reporting feral hog signs and coming to us for help, which is exactly what we hoped would happen,” he adds. “We help by providing technical advice, on-site visits, loaning equipment and training of the trapping and removal process.”

Feral hogs are not wildlife and are a serious threat to fish, forests and wildlife as well as agricultural resources. Economic loss estimates from 10 years ago in the U.S. were at greater than $1.5 billion in damage from feral hogs per year. Since there are now more hogs, the total is exponentially exphigher now. Feral hogs damage property, agriculture, and natural resources by their aggressive rooting of soil in addition to their trampling and consumption of crops as part of their daily search for food. For commercial pig farmers, concern exists that the wild hogs could be a vector for swine fever (hog cholera) to return to the U.S., which has been extinct in America since 1978.Feral hogs are also known to carry diseases such as swine brucellosis, pseudorabies, trichinosis and leptospirosis, which are a threat to Missouri agriculture and human health.

Feral hogs have expanded their range in the U.S. from 17 to 38 states over the past three decades. Their populations grow rapidly because feral hogs can breed any time of year and produce two litters of one to seven piglets every 12-15 months.

To report feral hog sightings or damage, go online to mdc.mo.gov/feralhog.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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