Hog hunting: Defeating the goal of eradication

by Sue Hagan

 

Several years ago a Wayne County man told me he couldn’t understand all the fuss being raised about wild hogs - he liked their taste and didn’t think they were as much of a nuisance as “them there environmentalists” said they were.

Clearly he assumed I wasn’t one of “them there environmentalists” because he went on to tell me his neighbor had a hog trap on his property, and the neighbor would release any young female hogs caught so they could reproduce. No doubt the neighbor is among those opposed to efforts underway to ban hog hunting from all government lands in Missouri - conservation, forest service, and national parks.

Isn’t it interesting that so many anti-government people enjoy using government lands for hunting - not just deer, ducks and other native game - but for hunting wild hogs which originated in Europe? Worse, these anti-government folks see nothing wrong with using public lands for their own hog-rearing operations!

But I’ve also talked to many rural local landowners who have watched their crops destroyed overnight, who have seen their pasture lands become barren, who have watched their streams become filthy hog-bathing holes. On my own 40 acres, feral hogs have periodically destroyed the watercress in our spring channel, they have reduced the numbers of Ovenbirds and other ground-nesting birds, they have destroyed our efforts to spread milkweed for Monarch butterflies.

When I ride my bike down my country road or take hikes in Taum Sauk State Park, I am often startled by the grunts of wild hogs lurking in the nearby woods.

My neighbor’s two dogs required over 1,000 stitches after trying to take down a wild boar. And it’s not just the hogs creating a danger: while walking in my woods, I’ve come dangerously close to being struck by bullets from hog hunters shooting from their vehicles at the sounds of hogs in the woods.

I am not at all opposed to killing feral hogs - one year, thanks to help from MDC, we trapped some two dozen hogs which our neighbor shot and butchered. When hog shooting was made into a year-round season, I had hopes that would reduce the numbers of hogs on our property. But that didn’t happen; the hogs kept proliferating.

Years of research has shown that open hunting of hogs defeats the goal of eradication. While a trap can catch and hold two dozen or more hogs, people hunting near a trap kill one or two and thereby warn off the rest of the herd to move away. With a sow able to breed a dozen piglets at a time, and have two or more litters a year, it’s easy to see the multiplying effect.

Worsening the situation is a new home industry: people are leasing hog-hunting rights on their private lands. This commercialization of hog hunting depends upon there being large numbers of hogs available for the paying guests - so the hogs are baited to habituate them to coming to hunting blinds. The paying guests are pretty much guaranteed getting a few hogs, but with herds of fifty, a hundred or more, the vast majority of the herd disperses and continues breeding. These hog hunting ranches have no interest in eliminating hogs because their business is providing paying customers an abundance of targets.

I can hear shouts from livid anti-environmentalists that they should be able to do whatever they want with their land and that includes breeding and killing hogs. Maybe so, but if what they are doing creates problems for my landowner rights then we have a problem: Can you release your septic effluent onto your neighbor’s land? Of course not.

My suggestion: any property owner who sells hunting rights for shooting non-native species (which feral hogs are) should be required to fence off their land, just like what is required for exotic animal farms. If you hunt hogs on your own property, fine. But if you sell hunting rights then fence your land. Grow all the hogs you want, but keep them confined to your own property so they don’t spread elsewhere. This is definitely a case where good neighbors make good fences.

 

Sue Hagan is retired and lives in rural Reynolds County. When not caving or birding, she shares her opinions.