Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

Community News

January 17, 2011

Feral Hog problem in Oklahoma top concern at Conservation Meet

Pauls Valley, Oklahoma — For those who have made a family heritage of raising crops or livestock, they are well tuned to keeping that livelihood going no matter the struggle or cost.

Most problems have a solution those in the agriculture community can seek, but in recent years one problem that has been gaining increasing attention is the growing threat from populations of Feral Hogs. The concern was the top subject Thursday night at the Garvin County Fairgrounds as farmers from all over the area met for the annual Garvin Conservation District Board Meeting.

Feral Hogs as a term is defined as once domesticated pigs that were either released as far back as when European settlers arrived or are those that have escaped and turned wild, said Russell Stevens, a key speaker at the event and Wildlife & Range Consultant for the Samuel Roberts Nobel Foundation. Since somewhere in each bloodline there is a connection to domestication, there is a hesitation to call them wildlife, but their reputation as a destructive species is universal in almost every county across the state.

“They’re really not a very researched animal and there’s a lot of research going on about them so we know very little on how wild hogs behave in the wild,” said Stevens, who added that the animals have only established a major foothold in the state in the past couple of decades. “There’s a a lot of biology left yet to learned about feral hogs.”

Numbers of the hogs in a given area always depend on food or water availability, but what makes them a particularly difficult pest to deal with is that they can adapt everything from their eating habits to when they are active and finding new habitat, said Stevens. The animals are not always as large as domesticated pigs, but can still get as large as a few hundred pounds and one female’s four to eight piglets could expand to as many as 78 hogs in two years. Those that have several generations in the wild tend to be almost black in color, though their appearance can vary as much as domesticated pigs.

The extend of the destruction can result in all sorts of financial strain like damaging the land, lessening the quality of drinking water sources for livestock, eat as well as uproot crops along the lines of corn or Bermuda grass and even attack livestock, said Stevens. The also carry diseases like Swine Brucellosis, which is contagious to humans, and drive local wildlife away like deer or fowl.

One of the initial suggestions that has been put into use already is hunting the animals for sport, though other than some economic gain for property owners who sell rights to hunt, it does not lead to long term elimination, said Dennis Creel, a Wildlife Service employee with the United States Department of Agriculture. A more effective solution is to trap and kill the animals.

Creel noted that some of the best techniques he has discovered is using large traps after getting the hogs comfortable with the area for a few days where he sets out bait like corn. His tips included making sure the trap is secure, setting them somewhat apart from initial bait area and using a live decoy like a dominant sow. In the end, if a property owner needs help in eliminating the threat, the USDA or local county extension agent can always recommend those who are accustomed to the practice.

Comments from those in attendance ranged from those who could confirm how destructive the animal was on their own land to inquiry on what was the best method for catching and eliminating it. An area man noted that he had seen damage to crops and that they can be a threat to domestic animals due to their aggressive nature whether they are threatened or searching for food.

“Our policy for the state of Oklahoma is when they come out of traps they are pushing up daisies,” said Creel. “There needs to be a whole lot of work done.”

More Information:

Managing wild pigs guide- www.berrymaninstitute.org/publications

www.USDA.gov

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