Feral hogs: There’s nothing funny about them

News from the region
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I sat at a professional development women’s luncheon in Cape Girardeau recently and across the table from me was one of our city’s most active public relations professionals. She’s a mom of a toddler, a decision maker in her home and a major influencer of our local community. She glanced at her phone, laughed and then looked me in the eye with a smile.

“How do you send a press release with this headline and keep a straight face,” she asked.

I think it was supposed to be a rhetorical question; she may not have realized it was my press release. I coauthored it and sent it earlier that day. The headline was “MDC advises proper fencing can help keep out feral hogs.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand,” was my response.

“I just see feral hogs as a cartoon,” she replied. “It’s just hilarious and outlandish. They look so comical and it’s hard to imagine they pose an actual real threat to anyone.”

She genuinely was not trying to offend me. When something isn’t in your own backyard, it can be hard to conceptualize the reality of a problem. But, feral hogs aren’t funny and every Missourian needs to know the dangers they pose.

I wished I could introduce her to Ken Hobbs, a Reynolds County landowner who’s lost thousands of dollars to feral hog damage. I wished she could meet face to face with these landowners who are not wealthy; they are normal, average Missourians who wake up to find their front yard has been completely rooted up and demolished by 30 feral hogs while they were sleeping. They go out to work on their farm one morning to find their pond that their cattle depend on has drained overnight, thanks to one hog that decided to root around on the pond levy. Or, they set up for their daughter’s outdoor wedding the day before, only to find the entire area destroyed by feral hogs the morning of the wedding. These landowners don’t think feral hogs are funny at all.

It’s also not funny that wildlife biologists must take time away from managing wildlife and improving habitat to work on feral hog elimination and repair feral hog damage to much needed habitats. Feral hogs decimate wildlife populations wherever they are, because they destroy habitat and they also eat wildlife young. Fawns, turkey poults and basically anything young and defenseless is on the menu. It’s not funny to see our wildlife populations struggle due to this invasive, destructive species that should not be in Missouri. We’ve worked hard to bring these wildlife species back to our state over the past 80 years.

So, how do we influence people who aren’t directly linked to the feral hog problem? We keep spreading the message. We keep introducing them to hurting landowners and suffering wild turkeys through the news and social media. We can’t assume that everyone understands the problem. Even when we think we’ve sent enough press releases and posted enough to social media and talked enough in the local coffee shop, we must continue the messaging. Because, eventually, they’re going to read past that headline and get introduced to something that’s much worse than a cartoon. They’re going to learn that feral hogs could make it to their own backyard if they don’t decide to act, speak up and make sure everyone knows – feral hogs aren’t funny.

To report feral hog sightings or learn more about feral hog elimination efforts go to mdc.mo.gov/feralhog