Every year feral pigs cause an estimated $1.5 billion worth of agricultural damage in the United States. Just one group of 10 hogs is capable of destroying up to 20 acres of crops in a single night, so it is no great surprise why many biologists want to see the invasive animal eradicated. Yet late last month the Missouri Conservation Commission (MDC) proposed a rule change that perplexed many hunters. The agency now wants to halt all hog hunting on any land owned by the MDC.
According to officials, the proposal came after complaints from staff that hunters were disrupting trapping attempts.
“The proposed ban on hog hunting on conservation lands is a direct result of misguided hunters disrupting trapping efforts by MDC staff,” MDC Wildlife Division Chief Jason Sumners explained. “MDC staff set large, corral-type traps on areas where there are known feral hogs. They then bait the area with corn for several days or weeks to attract the targeted group of hogs, get them used to the surroundings, and get them concentrated in the trap before triggering it. This work takes weeks, with the goal to trap the entire group of hogs.”
After weeks of work to catch the sounder of hogs, we then get an individual hunter who finds out about the site and shows up at some point and shoots a hog or two. The rest of the group then scatters and moves to a new location. As a result, weeks of work have been wasted and new areas now have feral hogs.”
The department added that some hunters have also illegally released pigs for the purpose of hunting. Officials are now encouraging hunters to report pig sightings instead of shooting them.
Hunters however, say that the actions of a few bad apples should not led to an all-out ban. Many hunters do not specifically target pigs but will harvest them when hunting for other animals, such as deer. They say that a ban would not only reduce opportunities to take wild pigs, but it is also not the best way for the MDC to approach managing the species. Some sportsmen, such as David Karmi of St. Louis, said the department should put a bounty on the animals.
“I think it would be a great idea to put a bounty on ’em, and maybe work with hunters who want to trap them,” he told the Springfield News-Leader. “It’s pretty rampant as far as the carnage they can do, and they breed like rabbits.”
Other hunters say that the department should notify the public when trapping pigs, or otherwise close off areas where they are conducting a cull from the public. This, they say, is preferable to a hunting ban.
“If we knew where they had their traps set out those would be areas to avoid,” James Wilson of Pleasant Hope said. “Close those areas 30 to 60 days and prosecute people who go into that trapping perimeter. I think that might be a better way to handle it.”
The MDC is holding a 30-day public comment period on the proposed rule change. A final decision will be made later this year, and the ban could begin as early as September.
Image courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation