Over the course of the 2013-2014 season, Louisiana hunters harvested significantly more feral pigs than deer, something that came as no surprise to state biologists. This is because the invasive hog population, referred to by some experts as one of the most worrying environmental issues for the state, directly impacts the deer population.
“Hogs continue to be a primary concern,” stated the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) in its annual deer report. “Research shows that deer and hogs do not mix and that deer can be displaced by hogs. Research has shown that deer detection rates can be up to 49% less where hogs occur. Hog populations affect deer numbers through direct competition for food resources and fawn predation. Hogs carry infectious diseases such as Leptospirosis, brucellosis, and pseudo-rabies.”
Last year hunters harvested 166,200 deer, a healthy sum after a decade of declining deer numbers. However, hogs still beat out deer as the state’s most harvested big game animal with more than 183,600 bagged. Officials say the number of hogs shot last year rose 14 percent over 2012’s total.
But hogs do not only affect deer. The feral pigs are also a menace to farmers and landowners, uprooting seedlings and degrading forests, even increasing soil erosion and contaminating pristine waterways with coliform bacteria. Hogs are extremely adaptable to boot, and can survive any environment from marshes and forests, to even sub-arctic landscapes and deserts.
“They’re impacting food resources for turkeys, quail…they impact everything because of their presence and their predatory nature as ground scavengers,” LDWF Deer Program Mananger Scott Durham told WWL.
The number of hogs killed annually may seem big on paper, but experts say it can be difficult to control Louisiana’s pig population. There are an estimated 500,000 feral hogs in the state and sows can produce an average of 12 piglets every year. At that rate, the LDWF believes that 75 percent of the total swine population must be harvested every year to maintain a stable number of pigs. Even with loosened hunting regulations, that is a tall order for Louisiana hunters. Wildlife officials are currently working to make it possible for state hunters to harvest pigs from a helicopter, a highly effective method that has seen use in nearby Texas. Additionally, a survey is also currently underway by researchers at Louisiana State University to put a dollar amount on how much damage feral pigs actually do to Louisiana’s economy.
Image courtesy National Park Service