Monday, August 8, 2016

Grant funds, hog hunting ban make gains in feral hog fight

MDC, partner agencies are committed to ridding Missouri of this invasive species.
PIEDMONT, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and its partners are already seeing the benefits of grant funds designated to help fight the invasive feral hog population. Paired with recent banning of hog hunting on conservation areas, this marks progress in the fight against feral hogs according to John Burk, a regional wildlife biologist with the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF).
Burk and a group of representatives of the organizations partnered in the feral hog fight had the chance to watch new trapping equipment in action recently.
“A frustrated landowner, who’d experienced significant damage to his bean and hay fields, was able to benefit from a new remotely operated Boar Buster feral hog trap,” Burk said. “The trap was deployed and within four hours, 11 hogs were captured and removed from his land.”
Tony Jaco, MDC’s private lands regional supervisor for the southeast region, said the partnership with other agencies in the feral hog fight, and the assistance available to private landowners is key to success.
“Over 90 percent of Missouri land is privately owned, which is why it’s vital we work with private landowners, as well as other wildlife organizations, to help get hogs off the whole landscape,” Jaco said. “Win or lose, we’re in this together and we have to win for the sake of our native wildlife resources.”
Feral hogs are a destructive invasive species that has expanded its range into Missouri in recent years. According to Burk, this expansion is partially due to the behavior and biology of the animal and the rugged and remote nature of the Ozark landscape. However, expansion has also come about as a result of the misguided efforts of those wanting hog populations to grow and assisting their dispersal and expansion by trapping and relocating them. 
Organizations that have partnered together in Missouri’s fight against feral hogs include MDC, NWTF, Quail Forever, Quality Deer Management Association, Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation, Missouri Corn Growers Association, Missouri Soybean Association, Missouri Pork Association, Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, Missouri Agribusiness Association, Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation, and Missouri Farmers Association. The contributions of this group are improving MDC’s capability of reducing feral hog populations to manageable levels.
“However, it is also our responsibility as conservationists to educate as many as we can about the real threat that feral hogs pose to our natural systems and native plants and animals,” Burk said. “The recent regulations to ban hog hunting on MDC owned lands is a necessary step in trying to get feral hog populations under control before it is too late.”
At its meeting on June 24, the Missouri Conservation Commission approved changes to the Wildlife Code of Missouri that would prohibit the hunting of feral hogs on conservation areas and other lands owned, leased, or managed by MDC. The new regulation prohibiting hog hunting on MDC areas does not apply to private property. The effective date of the regulation change is Sept. 30.
Burk added that these regulations are based on sound science and a desire to facilitate and provide opportunity for all citizens to use, enjoy, and learn about their natural resources.
“The goal is not to manage feral hog populations, it’s to eliminate them,” Burk said. “To have the greatest chance of accomplishing this goal, a variety of nontraditional techniques need to be implemented.”
Different kinds of traps and trapping techniques combined with night vision technology, aerial gunning, and others are necessary to have a measurable impact on the growing menace, he said.
“Hunting feral hogs gets a few here and there but hogs respond quickly and negatively to hunting pressure and this often gets in the way of trapping,” Burk explained. “Trapping is better because it removes entire sounders, not just one or two hogs.”
Burk asks for the community to join in the fight against feral hogs.
“If you know of folks that are moving pigs around or interfering with trapping efforts, or are sympathetic to those that are, try to educate them,” he said. “This is a real threat to our precious native plants and wildlife and it should not be tolerated any more than poaching.”
Jaco added MDC is committed to the eradication of feral hogs in Missouri.
“The bottom line is that feral hogs are destructive to everything in their path and we’re committed to ridding Missouri of this invasive species,” Jaco said.
For more information on feral hogs in Missouri, or to report sightings, go tomdc.mo.gov/feralhog.