SPRINGFIELD, Missouri – Missouri’s feral hog elimination efforts are producing encouraging numbers, but experts know there’s more work to be done.
The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other members of the Missouri Feral Hog Partnership are continuing their search for these creatures that are a menace to farmers and wildlife alike. Staff of both agencies stress that the assistance they get from the public continues to play a vital role in achieving the goal of total elimination from the state.
Progress continues to be made in efforts to rid Missouri of feral hogs. Cooperative efforts of MDC, USDA and landowners have led to 3,695 feral hogs being trapped and killed statewide in the first five months of 2018. In the southwest and west-central parts of the state, MDC and USDA hog trappers have been doing more searching than finding in recent weeks – an encouraging sign that feral hogs in some areas have dwindled to a few isolated pockets.
However, falling numbers coupled with lush summer vegetation means it will be more difficult to locate feral hogs still running loose on the landscape. This reiterates the importance of cooperation from the public.
“Landowners have been, and will continue to be, the cornerstone of the Missouri feral hog elimination project,” said Parker Hall, USDA Missouri Wildlife Services State Director. “They have been instrumental in helping the Missouri Feral Hog Partnership identify, locate and remove this exotic, invasive species from the landscape.”
The problems feral hogs cause for the state’s ag community are many. Their rooting and wallowing can damage crops and fields and can contribute to soil erosion and stream siltation. Feral hogs can also transmit diseases to domestic hogs.
“In their search for food, I have seen feral hogs root holes up to 16 inches deep in pastures, hayfields, crop fields, pond dams, cemeteries, gardens and yards,” said Mark McLain, MDC’s Feral Hog Elimination Team Leader. “This rooting can damage equipment, injure livestock and cause the landowner significant financial loss to repair equipment and re-seed fields.”
Feral hogs are also problematic for wildlife. They’re omnivorous predators that eat nearly anything they can catch. Their food list includes small mammals, fawn deer, reptiles, amphibians and the eggs and offspring of turkeys, quail and other ground-nesting birds. Their wallowing destroys sensitive natural communities such as glades, fens and springs and leads to contamination of water sources.
“There is a limited amount of resources out there for our native wildlife and feral hogs compete for those resources,” McLain said. “Because they have the potential to reproduce so fast and have many individuals in a group, hogs can out-compete our native wildlife by eating all the available food in a localized area, occupy preferred bedding areas and degrade the habitat in a way that can reduce wildlife populations.”
Missouri is trying to eliminate the state’s feral hog population through concentrated and trapping efforts. Hunting of feral hogs is prohibited on MDC areas and the pursuit of feral hogs by citizens on private property is discouraged. There’s good reason for this approach. Weeks may be spent conditioning a group of hogs to come to a specific location so they can be eliminated in a single-control action. If, during that time, someone kills a couple of hogs in that group, the rest disperse. This means the elimination process must begin again at a new location – often with hogs that are warier of methods being used against them.
Citizens still have an important role in feral hog elimination in Missouri, though. Sightings should be reported to the nearest Missouri Department of Conservation office or to USDA – Wildlife Services. Reports from the public on feral hog locations are crucial to developing accurate range maps which, in turn, help in developing elimination strategies. In addition to local MDC and USDA offices, landowners with hog problems or information can call 573-522-4115, ext. 3296 or go to mdc.mo.gov/feralhog.