Feral hogs are a problem in Missouri. Present in an estimated 40 counties, their destructive nature hurts our state scientifically and economically. Leaders from federal and state agencies, and the Missouri General Assembly recognize the problem and are working together to eradicate feral hogs. However, they can’t solve this problem without the support of citizens.
Like most wildlife issues, humans are to blame for our feral hog problem.
Parker Hall, an Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service scientist with the USDA, said, “Gooseneck trailers are one of the biggest problems we face with feral hogs in Missouri.”
What Hall means is, people are trapping hogs, loading them in a trailer and hauling them to other parts of the state to create populations for hunting. The people doing this either don’t understand the destructive nature of hogs, or simply don’t care. Either way, it’s illegal and must be discouraged.
In an aggressive move to curb the growing feral hog problem in Missouri, the Conservation Commission has initially approved prohibiting the hunting of feral hogs on all lands owned, leased, or managed by MDC. Meaning conservation areas, certain Army Corps lands and other public properties will now be off limits to hog hunting.
Hunting is not the answer to eliminating feral hogs. In fact, research has proven that hunting hogs actually increases their numbers. Now I know that may leave a few of you scratching your heads, but you have to understand the problem. Hogs are elusive, they multiply rapidly and they roam large areas.
In a press release issued by MDC, Wildlife Division Chief Jason Sumners said, “The proposed ban on hog hunting on conservation lands is a direct result of misguided hunters disrupting trapping efforts by MDC staff. After weeks of work to catch the sounder of hogs, we then get an individual hunter who finds out about the site and shows up at some point and shoots a hog or two. The rest of the group then scatters and moves to a new location. As a result, weeks of work have been wasted and new areas now have feral hogs.”
Trapping is the best way to significantly impact hog populations, but it takes time and a lot of work. First, the large, corral-type traps must be built. Then they must be consistently baited for several days or weeks to attract the targeted group of hogs. You want to catch as many hogs as possible at once. To build the trust of the entire group at a bait site takes weeks. If a hunter comes in there and disrupts the hogs just once, the whole set is blown.
In the Legislature, Senator Wallingford, and Representatives Reiboldt and Paul Fitzwater have introduced bills dealing with feral hogs. Their bills address killing hogs on private property and stiffing penalties for violators of feral hog laws.
Hunting is a huge part of my life. I work everyday to support the rights of hunters and the privilege of hunting. So supporting a ban on hunting is counter to everything I believe in, but in this situation, it is the right thing to do for our landscape, native wildlife species and agricultural operations. Although there is already a small contingent of hog hunters in Missouri, we do not want a widespread culture of hog hunting to be established, because if there is a culture of hog hunting, those hunters will want hogs on the landscape. A desire for hogs impedes the need to completely eradicate them from our state.
MDC is holding a 30-day public comment period on the proposed regulation changes, from April 2 through May 1. Public comments can be submitted by mail to: Missouri Department of Conservation, Regulations Committee, PO Box 180, Jefferson City, Missouri 65102-0180. Comments can also be submitted by email to Regulations@mdc.mo.gov, or online at mdc.mo.gov/node/24141.
Releasing hogs to non-enclosed areas or to the wild is illegal in Missouri. If you are aware of illegal feral hog transportation please report the activity to your local conservation agent or call the Operation Game Thief hotline at 800-392-1111.