MDC and partners eliminate more than 6,500 feral hogs in Missouri’s in 2017
The Missouri Department of Conservation’s feral hog strike team eliminated a total of 6,567 feral hogs from the state in 2017; the hogs were removed by MDC, in cooperation with its partner agencies and private landowners. In 2016, 5,358 feral hogs were removed.
Crews removed 2,858 feral hogs in southeast Missouri, which is where the highest density of feral hogs occurs. The Ozark region, which includes Ozark County, removed 2,576, and the Southwest region removed 932. One hundred or fewer feral hogs were moved from the state’s other regions.
Mark McLain, MDC’s feral hog elimination team leader, said the overall success in 2017 “can be attributed to our strategic approach to eliminating populations of feral hogs.”
McLain said it’s essential that the public understand why feral hogs must be eliminated.
“This is 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 populations diminish.”
McLain said feral hogs also have the potential to carry diseases that can spread to humans, pets and livestock. He hopes the message that hunting is not an effective method for eliminating feral hog populations is starting to catch on.
“For over 20 years, the unregulated taking of feral hogs was allowed in Missouri, during which time our feral hog population expanded from a few counties to over 30 counties,” he said.
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 said. “This is illegal, and when caught, those who release feral hogs face hefty fines.”
McLain said MDC and its many partners are committed to eliminating feral hogs from Missouri. More than 30 government, agricultural and wildlife groups have partnered with MDC to achieve that goal.
Other factors in the success of the feral hog elimination effort include MDC’s “Report, don’t shoot” message to encourage trapping, prohibiting the take of feral hogs on conservation areas and a strong public awareness campaign.
McLain said landowners are responding to the campaign, which is centered on the knowledge that hunting feral hogs is not an effective way to eliminate them. He said 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, escaping and causing more damage. MDC now says 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,” McLain said. “We help by providing technical advice, on-site visits, loaning equipment and training of the trapping and removal process.”
MDC officials say estimates of economic loss due to feral hogs from 10 years ago in the U.S. were at greater than $1.5 billion in damage per year. Since there are more hogs today, this total is likely higher 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.
Feral hogs have expanded their range in the U.S. from 17 to 38 states over the past 30 years. Their populations grow rapidly because feral hogs can breed any time of year and produce two litters of one to seven piglets every 12 to 15 months. 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.
To report feral hog sightings or damage, go online to mdc.mo.gov/feralhog.