Feral Hogs in Missouri

feral_hog_052.jpg

Image of a feral hog
MDC Staff

Feral hogs are highly destructive and prolific pests. Feral hogs will eat nearly anything they come in contact with, including many species of native wildlife. They compete directly with native wildlife by eating acorns, a major fall food source for deer, turkey, and black bear. Their rooting and wallowing behaviors destroy Missouri’s landscape and pollute our waters. A social group of ten hogs can destroy 20-30 acres overnight, including crops, causing financial burdens on Missouri’s landowners and agriculture producers. Damage caused by hogs has been estimated at nearly $1.5 billion per year in the United States. Feral hogs are a menace that must be eradicated in Missouri.

Report feral hogs, don’t shoot them.

Report feral hog sightings and damage to 573-522-4115 ext. 3296 or online.

Releasing hogs is illegal. If you see someone releasing feral hogs, report violators to your local conservation agent.

The take of feral hogs is prohibited on conservation areas and other lands owned, leased, or managed by the Conservation Department. Hunting hogs on other lands is strongly discouraged. Instead, report feral hog sightings to 573-522-4115, extension 3296 or online. The Conservation Department and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, along with other partners and hundreds of private landowners, are working to eradicate feral hogs in Missouri.

When hunters shoot feral hogs, it complicates efforts to remove these pests. Hogs are social animals that travel in groups called sounders. Shooting one or two hogs scatters the sounder and makes trapping efforts aimed at catching the entire group at once more difficult, because hogs become trap-shy and more wary of baited sites. With their high reproductive rate, removing one or two hogs does not help to reduce populations. Anyone who observes a feral hog or damage caused by feral hogs should report it to the Conservation Department rather than shooting the animal so we can work together towards eradication.

What is a feral hog?

A feral hog is defined as any hog, including Russian and European wild boar, that is not conspicuously identified by ear tags or other identification and is roaming freely on public or private land without the land manager’s or landowner’s permission.

Why are they a problem?

Hog damageThey destroy habitat and young wildlife

Feral hogs spend a lot of time rooting and wallowing, behaviors that contribute to soil erosion, reduce water quality, and damage agricultural crops and hay fields, as well as destroy sensitive natural areas such as glades, fens and springs.

Hogs have a keen sense of smell and are opportunistic feeders. They forage heavily on acorns and compete directly with native species for this important fall food. They also commonly eat the eggs of ground-nesting birds and almost anything else they encounter, including reptiles, amphibians and small mammals. They have also been known to kill and eat deer fawns.

They spread diseases to people, pets, and livestock

Feral hogs are known to carry diseases such as swine brucellosis, pseudorabies, trichinosis and leptospirosis. The domestic swine industry is currently free of these diseases, but they are endemic in feral hogs and circulate at levels above 30%. The reintroduction of these diseases into domestic populations could be devastating to the agriculture industry.

How did the problem arise?

Feral hogs have been roaming some Missouri counties since the days of open range. The situation took a wrong turn in the 1990s when hog hunting for recreation began to gain popularity. Groups began raising and promoting European wild boar as a form of alternative agriculture and for hunting on captive facilities. It wasn't long before many of these hogs escaped or were released intentionally on public land.

Because feral hogs are highly adaptable animals and prolific breeders, their numbers grow at an alarming rate. One sow can give birth to two litters of about six piglets twice per year, resulting in a population growth rate of about 166% per year. The Conservation Department has received damage complaints from private landowners since the late 1990s. Today, feral hog populations are established in over 30 Missouri counties.

How can the problem be fixed?

Eradicating feral hogs is difficult, but necessary. Populations are isolated and typically in remote, rugged terrain, making locating and killing the hogs difficult. Adding to the problem are illegal releases of hogs on public land or on private land that is not fenced to contain them. If you see someone releasing hogs, report them immediately to the phone number listed above or online.

Concentrated trapping efforts by state and federal employees and private landowner partners have brought some success, but to be effective, trapping efforts need to continue year-round until every hog has been eliminated.

Specific rules and regulations exist regarding feral hogs, and proposed regulation changes are currently under consideration.

Feral hog sign

trapped hogsThere are a number of signs that indicate the presence of feral hogs. Hogs root around in pursuit of various foods like roots, acorns, and earthworms, plowing the soil to depths of 2 to 8 inches. If several hogs are involved, these rooted areas can stretch over many acres. If you see an area that looks like it has been tilled, chances are feral hogs were the cause. Other indications of hog damage include muddy pits, called wallows, or rubbings low on trees.

Dangers to humans

Feral hogs can be aggressive and have been known to attack humans. But the greater risk is that of contracting diseases through handling tissues of infected hogs. Swine brucellosis and pseudorabies have both been documented in feral hogs in Missouri, and both can affect humans and domestic animals.

Feral hogs have excellent senses of smell and hearing, and they typically avoid contact with humans. However, they have occasionally chased hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts up trees. If you find yourself confronted with a feral hog, the best defense is to climb the nearest tree. If the animal charges, sidestep quickly, taking care to avoid the swing of its tusks, and promptly find a tree to climb.

hogdamage_3-15-12.jpg

Lawn trampled and uprooted by feral hogs
Hog-Damaged Lawn

hog_wallow_3-12.jpg

muddy wallows created by feral hogs in a forest
Hog Wallows

hogscat_a_3-20-12.jpg

light-colored feral hog scat among fall leaves and twigs
Feral Hot Scat: Figure A

hogscat_b_3-20-12.jpg

dark-colored feral hog droppings among twigs
Feral Hog Scat: Figure B

hogtrack_a_3-20-12.jpg

hog tracks with dewclaw wider than hoof base in mud
Hog Tracks in Mud

hogtrack_c_3-20-12.jpg

feral hog tracks in mud show round shape, blunted toes and wide dewclaw marks.
Front and Hind Feral Hog Tracks

Wildlife Reminders

Watch for the reddish orange blooms of the butterfly milkweed along roadsides and in diverse grasslands now through August.

Stay in Touch with MDC

Stay in Touch with MDC news, newsletters, events, and manage your subscription

Sign up

Our Magazines

Conservationist Magazine

Our monthly publication about conservation in Missouri--free to all residents.

Missouri Conservationist 09-2016

Xplor Magazine for kids

Xplor helps kids find adventure in their own backyard. Free to residents of Missouri.

xplor September/October