Editor’s Note: Hunter’s Specialties tries to keep hunters abreast of not only the latest hunting tactics, but also the future of hunting. Currently biologists across the U.S. have seen a tremendous growth in the sport of feral hog hunting and in the need for controlling feral hog populations.
If you don’t have ‘em, you’re about to get ‘em. And, once you get ‘em, you’re going to wish you didn’t have ‘em. Then, when you try to get rid of ‘em, you’re going to find that you’re in a long, hard battle that you never may win. According to Dr. Steve Ditchkoff, professor of wildlife sciences at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, “Wild pigs are rapidly becoming one of the most serious threats to native ecosystems in North America. As a result, it’s imperative that a concerted effort be made to understand their effects on ecosystems. To that end, we’re bringing together researchers, managers, practitioners and policy makers to share current research results and identify knowledge gaps regarding the interaction between wild pigs and the environment.”
Ditchkoff has sounded the alarm and called researchers from all over the country together for a meeting the end of May, 2006 in Mobile, Alabama, to discuss how the scientific community can get involved in solving the rapidly growing numbers of feral hogs throughout the nation. Apparently, the only solutions found thus far are trapping and hunting. But these stop-gap methods only will keep hogs off certain lands because when hunting pressure builds up on one piece of property, the hogs will pack their bags and move to other lands.
“In the next 10 years, feral hogs will be one of the most serious wildlife problems this country has to face,” Dr. Ditchkoff reports. “The most-rapidly growing population of feral hogs in this country is in the Midwest – the Bread Basket of America. If feral hogs aren’t controlled or eliminated, we could possibly see food shortages in the future.”
But feral hogs aren’t only damaging crop lands; they’re eating everything, including amphibians and reptiles, many of which are endangered. Feral hogs also destroy domestic livestock. In a study that will be presented at the 2006 seminar, Wayne E. Stone and Walters A. Arrey report that, “We found internal organs of wild turkey embryos in three of the 16 stomachs of feral hogs that were studied. One stomach contained 12 wild turkey embryos.”
This finding indicates that feral hogs are also wreaking havoc on turkey nests. One of the most traumatic instances of wild hogs becoming carnivorous and preying on livestock and deer occurred at the Ford Ranch in Melvin, Texas. Texas contains roughly one-half of the feral swine in the U.S., with population estimates of 2- to 3-million head.
According to ranch manager, Forrest Armke, “Before we started our hog-eradication program, the ranch was raising goats. However, instead of having two kids per goat, we were only seeing one kid per two goats. The ranch also had a low deer population with the does only averaging about one fawn per every two does. We believed that the feral hogs were finding the young animals as soon as they were born and then killing and eating them. So, for four years we went to war with hogs. We hunted them day and night, and every freezer in our county was full of wild pigs. Finally, we got the feral hog population under control, and we saw a more-natural birth rate in the goats and the deer. Hogs are bad medicine for domestic livestock and for wildlife populations, and if you don’t control or eliminate them, they can and will cause severe economic damage.”