CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. – Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) wildlife biologists on the Department's feral hog strike team have tallied up numbers for the first quarter of 2016. The first three months of the year yielded a total of 955 hogs trapped by MDC, partner agencies, and private landowners. This is a 23-percent increase compared to the first quarter of 2015, when 777 hogs were trapped.
"We see this as very successful, although there are more hogs where those came from," said MDC Wildlife Management Coordinator Alan Leary. "The key to eradicating these destructive, invasive, pests is cooperation with private landowners and partners in efforts to report hog sightings, continue trapping, and deter hog hunting."
Leary, who leads the Department's feral hog eradication efforts, said while hunting is a very effective tool for managing populations of wildlife, feral hogs are not wildlife and MDC will not manage them. The goal is to eradicate them.
He added that killing feral hogs for sport hinders efforts to eradicate them for a few reasons.
"Some hunters intentionally release feral hogs in new areas to establish populations to hunt," Leary said. "And hunters usually only shoot one or two hogs out of group, while the rest scatter across the landscape and become more difficult to catch. Additionally, feral hogs have such a high reproductive rate that an entire group, called a sounder, must be removed at the same time for eradication efforts to be successful."
Because of that high reproductive rate, more than 70 percent of a feral hog population has to be removed annually to decrease populations.
"Hunting is not an effective tool for eradicating hogs, and actually compounds the problem by dispersing remaining hogs and fostering a hog-hunting culture," Leary said.
He added that this year's first-quarter trapping results shows that trapping is the correct method for eradicating feral hogs. Most hogs were trapped in southern Missouri, where the highest density of hogs occurs.
"We've also trapped hogs in other parts of the state, which unfortunately means people are still intentionally releasing feral hogs for hunting," Leary said. "It's vital we continue our efforts and get the hog population under control before it spreads any further."
Earlier this year, MDC partnered with other conservation groups, agriculture organizations, and the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation to provide the state's feral hog strike team with more trapping equipment to be used by MDC for trapping efforts on private and public land, and to fund public education efforts on the dangers of feral hogs.
"The additional traps we are purchasing will greatly enhance our trapping efforts," Leary said.
Feral hogs are not wildlife and are a serious threat to fish, forests and wildlife as well as agricultural resources. 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.
"Our goal is to continue these trapping efforts and encourage reporting of feral hogs rather than hunting them, which is the best way to eradicate this destructive species," Leary said.
REPORT SIGHTINGS! To report feral hog sightings or damage, call 573-522-4115 ext. 3296, or go online to mdc.mo.gov/feralhog.
LEARN MORE: Interested in learning more about feral hogs? Join the MDC Wild Webcast: Talkin' Hogs on Wednesday, April 6, from noon to 1 p.m. from the comfort of your computer or mobile device. The webcast will feature a short presentation by MDC wildlife experts and then be open to participant questions on feral hogs. Get details and sign up at mdc.mo.gov/newsroom/mdc-wild-webcast-talkin-hogs.