Jerry Richards, Cooperative Feral Hog Outreach educator with the University of Missouri Extension, has been on a mission to exterminate feral hogs in the area.
Richards recently gave an update on his quest to remove the wild hogs and prevent further damage to farmers’ fields and local habitat.
“We had a meeting at Johnson’s Shut-Ins where we got all the legislators and some media there,” he said. “We’ve had the helicopter all winter long which helps, where before we had it for a week or two.” Helicopters are frequently used to find groups of hogs during eradication efforts.
There has been success with the program, Richards said, indicating the numbers of hogs caught are decreasing.
“We have areas in the western part of the state where there used to be hogs and this winter, we haven’t found a hog,” he said. “We still have the movement of them, they keep progressing. We still have evidence that some are still being caught and turned loose. Genetic strains come into places that just by pigs migrating they wouldn’t be there.”
Catching the final 25% of the hog population in a given area is apparently the hardest part since the ones that are left are shy and become wary of traps. Being mainly nocturnal, the last ones can be hard to clean out.
“If we bring traps in and don’t get them all caught, we send people there to hunt,” Richards said. “They have the night vision goggles.”
Richards said it is illegal to hunt hogs on public lands, but not on private land —a policy with which many people vehemently disagree.
“Every place that has tried hunting to remove feral hogs, the problem has gotten worse,” he said. “It’s counterintuitive, the common sense idea is, if we turn everybody loose with a gun, if we’re trapping over here and you’re shooting over there, that’s the best way to take care of it. The actual science behind it, in the places where they allow the hunting to continue, some hogs will get killed, but you permeate that hunting culture, which is people who want to sell hunts, guide hunts. We are told there are people who don’t want them totally gone because they like to hunt.
“At the Johnson Shut-Ins meeting, we had a panel of landowners who came in, there’s some landowners that own a lot of land and cattle. They were in unanimous agreement that they are behind us. We had an article in Missouri Cattleman’s Magazine and they are behind this approach.”
With a rich hunting culture in this area, Richards says, sometimes hogs will be let loose for training or for selling hunts.
“I believe it is still an issue,” he said. “The reason I believe it is an issue is that we have a certain number of genetically-coded hogs that will show up. Down in Texas, we have another breed down there. We have nothing showing up in southern Missouri showing that breed. Then suddenly, that breed shows up here. I would make the case that somebody has hauled that hog rather than he has decided to traipse all the way up from Texas. I still believe it is taking place, but not as much as it was.”
Richards said feral hogs can not only destroy a farmer’s field, they will destroy habitat for other wildlife and the wildlife itself.
“People used to say they had wild turkeys,” he said. “Now they hardly have any because the hogs come in and eat the eggs. They used to have whippoorwills, they don’t have them now. We have the photographs where a hog has a fawn in its mouth. That is one of the things that people who are intent on hunting them have tunnel vision and don’t see the other stuff going on. It’s one of those things that you don’t notice it riding around on your four-wheeler, but once people start pointing it out, it makes sense. Plus, feral hogs don’t have any natural predators.”
As a future part of the program, Richards said they are attempting to supply equipment that farmers can borrow to drag or disc up hog-damaged property to restore it to a previous state.
For landowners who have a feral hog problem, contact Jerry Richards at 573-854-9845 or email@example.com.
Mark Marberry is a reporter for the Farmington Press and Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3629, or at firstname.lastname@example.org