Our dog came home with a ghastly wound—he had chased too large a wild hog this time. He and his running mate were good at taking down the small hogs, but this time the dog was the victim. I want the hogs gone and I’m not averse to their being shot, but I know trapping is what works best.
Our hog problem surfaced in the nineties: since then their numbers grew to the point where just riding down the country road hogs were regularly seen and posed as much a danger to vehicles as do deer. Two local landowners started selling hog-hunting rights, yet for all the shootings by their paying guests and all the hunters on nearby MDC lands, the problems got worse.
Hogs love turkey eggs so naturally wild turkey numbers were decreasing. So did ground nesting birds such as Wood Thrushes and Ovenbirds; the growing silence of bird songs in the spring was noticeable. Our spring channel became a mud hole, native flowers disappeared quickly, rutting holes proliferated.
But a few years back, nearby Johnson Shut Ins and Taum Sauk State Parks began an intensive hog eradication effort and their success was evident. The hogs are still around (as my dog proved) but their numbers for the first time are on the way down. And from September until the dog’s injury in December, I didn’t see a single hog on my place, nor on my walks in the woods, nor when driving down the roads. Just before our dog got gored, a helicopter had flown over the Taum Sauk valley with a shooter inside—my guess is that this stirred up the hogs and the survivors of that shootout had moved down our way.
I reported the incident to the Missouri Department of Conservation and now. MDC will be setting up a modern net-trap with camera monitoring on our place. They don’t charge for the trap loan, shooting the hogs and hauling them off. Years ago we had a steal trap in place for a year, during which time 23 hogs met their fate. Not bad, but it was far from sufficient. It would have helped had neighbors set up traps.
Open hog hunting did next to nothing to reduce the population growth; maybe it made it worse. Hunters would shoot a few hogs but the herds then dispersed. Where traps were baited, hunters went out for an easy kill before the trap was set. For the two or three hogs they shot, ten, twenty or more were scared away from the trap.
Last week’s Mountain Echo featured landowners complaining about the new hunting ban on MDC and Forest Service lands: do they not know they are free to continue to hunt and trap hogs on their own property? And not a word was said about the hog hunting still permitted during deer and turkey season.
Mingo National Wildlife Refuge has an intensive hog eradication program; I have yet to find any private landowner who has duplicated Mingo’s success. Within the first nine months of 2019, Mingo killed over 1300 wild hogs. Compare that to the wild hog hunting ranch which boasted 100 hogs killed in three years by paying guests. 1300 in 9 months trapped at Mingo versus 100 shot in 3 years? Hunting ranches makes money ($100 per day in my area per paying guest) but they don’t effectively reduce hog numbers: the hogs are dispersed widely. It would help if they erected fences like other exotic game ranches are required to do!
Mingo uses camera monitoring combined with bait under a drop-down net. When a dozen, two dozen hogs are seen on the monitor gathering under the net is dropped down by remote control. One thing these experts learned about traps is that adult male hogs are greedy and chase the females and their brood away from the baited trap. So the one exception to the ‘no shooting’ policy is that rifles with silencers are used to shoot the male hogs. Then the females with their young can freely enter the traps in large groups.
A couple of decades of testing unlimited hog-hunting showed that approach was ineffective. Additionally, some individuals living near the public lands set up their own traps but released young females to breed. From direct word of mouth, I know this has happened. With all respect to landowners who would never do such a thing, others did.
A genuine test of the new policy will be to compare the hog kills in the months hunting is not allowed to the numbers killed when hog hunting is permitted on MDC and Forest Service lands. Meanwhile, landowners who have a hog problem can call MDC (or USDA specialist Joe Connor, 573/476-7239, in our area) and ask for help. If you don’t want to do that, go ahead and shoot as many hogs on your property as you want—it’s legal.
Farmers, landowners and environmentalists were big supporters of the MDC and Forest Service bans in hopes that wild hogs will be eliminated or at least drastically reduced. If this approach works, the only unhappy ones will be those who care more about the joys of hog hunting than the problems hogs cause; but they can always get a permit for deer or turkey hunting and use it to hunt hogs instead.