Feral hogs are bad for Missouri. That's the message Conservation Agent Brad Hadley wants to spread across the Ozarks, and across the state. Hadley's not alone in spreading this message. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) continues to work towards eradication of this invasive species that decimates wildlife habitat and agricultural crops. But progress can only be made when Missourians understand the dangers that surround the species and how to reign in the growing species.
"People need to know that feral hogs can carry as many as thirty-two diseases, many of which can cross over into other animals including domestic livestock," Hadley said, adding that some of the diseases carried by the hogs can even infect humans, such as Brucella suis, which can be contracted when field-dressing feral hogs.
A feral hog is defined by Missouri statute as any hog that is not conspicuously marked by ear tags or notches and that is roaming on public or private land.
"Feral hogs damage agricultural crops and lands through their direct feeding and rooting behavior. They damage natural resources such as woods ponds, springs, and streams by their wallowing behavior. This also produces soil erosion and water quality concerns," Hadley said. "They compete directly with wildlife species for food resources, like acorns, and they eat any amphibian or reptile they encounter."
Hadley said these vicious hogs will sometimes kill and eat fawn white-tailed deer.
Feral hogs, particularly sows that have piglets, can be and often are aggressive, and will readily and violently attack any perceived threat to those piglets, to include humans. They have long sharp tusks which they use to slash and puncture in attacks of aggression. Wounds from these slashes and punctures can be deep, can easily sever arteries and veins, and can both pass diseases and cause severe bacterial infections.
Although all of this information sounds terrifying, Hadley said the problem isn't a fight without hope. The MDC's Feral Hog Eradication Plan encourages the public to report sightings of feral hogs to their local MDC office, which will then dispatch personnel to investigate the report, bait and dispose of the hogs. This process is not easy, according to Hadley.
"This involves scouting and surveillance, pre-conditioning the hogs to bait at a particular location, and the location typically needs to have adequate access for a corral-type trap," Hadley said.
A corral trap allows for catching several hogs at one time, and is the most effective means for eradicating feral hogs, according to MDC.
Using this approach, local MDC personnel have removed 82 feral hogs from Shannon and Ripley counties in the past year. Additionally, deer hunters and private landowners reported killing 27 feral hogs across Carter, Oregon, Ripley, and Shannon counties in 2012. Hadley said 109 feral hogs may seem insignificant until the reproductive potential of feral hogs is considered.
"Feral hogs may have two to three litters per year, with litter sized typically ranging from six to eight," he said.
Sows also begin to reproduce in their first year, making their species multiply at a very fast rate. Hadley uses the example that if roughly half of the feral hogs removed this year (54) were females and each of those sows had just one litter of seven piglets in the year, the known population of hogs removed (109) would have grown by 378. That population of 109 feral hogs could have grown to 487 feral hogs by the end of 2012.
While this shows the MDC is making progress in keeping feral hogs at bay, Hadley says further progress depends on engaging the public to assist in the fight.
"The best way to help is to quickly report any feral hog sightings," he said.
He said hunters pursuing other game may kill feral hogs, though the MDC does not encourage "hog hunting". Hog hunters often interrupt larger scale efforts to trap the hogs.
For information on the fight against feral hogs in Missouri go online to mdc.mo.gov or call the Southeast Regional Office at (573)290-5730.