Feral Hogs and Disappearing Turkeys

LARRY DABLEMONT

Ozark Outdoors

The feral hog problem has worked out well for the Missouri Department of Conservation as far as financial benefits.  I don’t know the exact amount, but they are being paid well by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for their efforts in feral hog removal. However, it is not a situation making them any friends in rural areas of the state, because telling country people not to bait or kill feral hogs because “we will take care of the problem” is making many of them very angry.   The MDC will never eliminate the feral hog problem.  And I was told by a high level employee that the department doesn’t need country people to attain their goals.

“Not enough country people to change anything,” he told me, “we’ll never see an end to the one-eighth cent sales tax as long as we have the backing of people in St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, Columbia and Jefferson City.  And the way you keep them happy is a nice magazine, nature centers and a campaign through the media like, ‘serving nature and you’.”

In Texas, they have actually come up with something which could in time, eliminate feral hogs, but we will never see it in Missouri, I don’t think. They have built some large metal contraptions you would have to see to understand.  Basically, they are hog feeders, which have openings on 4 or 5 sides, where poisoned food is available to hogs only, and it will draw hogs from great distances.  The metal flaps only open when sensors inside hear the sound of hogs grunting and squealing. They remain closed to deer and raccoons and other wildlife.  I watched cameras showing them in the woods, and it is amazing how they work… But they do work, and if you had twenty of them over a county with hog problems, I believe in time you would see all feral hogs disappear.  But with that kind of science, you know these are going too expensive.  Still when you consider what the MDC and USDA are spending to do what is never going to work over large areas, these feeding-poisoning machines might be worth it.

It has been suggested to me that feral hogs are the reason for the tremendous decrease in wild turkey numbers over much of the Midwest, but there is nowhere that wild turkey numbers are down as much as on my place and the immediate 20-mile circle around me.  I have fed and photographed wild turkey for about 20 years and believe me, there are about 20 percent of the wild gobblers here now as there were 15 years ago.  AND… there are no feral hogs here!!!   Certainly feral hogs are going to hurt the numbers of nesting birds like wild turkey, woodcock, whippoorwills, quail, etc.  But even where no feral hogs exist, (Yet) the problem is similar.  We need an immediate change in the spring wild turkey season.  But Nero, up in Jefferson City is fiddling…as wild turkey keep dwindling.   What should be done?  A spring season delayed about ten days, then lasting only nine days, (two weekends) and a bag limit of one gobbler.  Then we need an end to the fall season and the youth season as well.  But the MDC would lose some tag sales, and therefore some money.

It is a far worse situation than we have seen in many years, and the people in Jefferson City don’t know it.  If you don’t believe me, look at the harvest numbers for the past eight years.   By the time they react and do studies, we may have to again do the kind of stocking that was done 60 years ago, when we had no MDC, but a different kind of people in charge at an agency called the Missouri Conservation Commission.

A reader contacted the MDC about his concerns over the disappearance of wild turkey on his land, and received this letter… “Our biologists are looking at our turkey data collected over years and decades and trying to determine how turkey numbers, weather, landscape and their interactions affect turkey numbers.  This research should help explain some of the trends we’re seeing in turkey production and numbers…. [email protected] 

He forgot to mention a few things, like egg-eating predation.   But that letter gives a great example of what the MDC has become.  Do a study, drive around in a pick-up, get to work on the computer!   That idea that the country people in Missouri, Kansas, or Arkansas do not carry enough weight to make a difference is going to backfire someday. Suburbanites can only be fooled so long. The book I am writing about the Missouri Department of Conservation may help that. I believe it will be finished this summer.  If you want to tell your story about dealing with them, or write a letter supporting them, we would like to hear from you.

From now until late March I will be hunting deer again on my place… More about that in next week’s column. Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613 or email me at [email protected]    I would like to hear your opinions.

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