Wild hog populations on the rise

Published 7:00 am Friday, August 26, 2016

Wild pigs are becoming an increasingly difficult species to control in Mississippi, and the rest of the country.
Dr. Eddie Smith, county coordinator with the Mississippi State University Pearl River County Extension Service, shared a plethora of information concerning the history and control methods of these feral creatures at the Crosby Arboretum recently. During the presentation he went over the history of how these animals came to the United States and why their populations and range are increasing.
In the 1500s, settlers and explorers brought hogs to the United States as livestock. As more of the country was settled the animals began to spread with settlers. Then, the introduction of the Eurasion wild boar for hunting purposes led to crossbreeding of the species, resulting in a hybrid population.
Today, those populations have exploded and expanded across the country for two reasons. The first is that hunters moved the animals closer to their grounds for harvesting, expanding their range. Populations then boomed because the animal is an omnivore, taking advantage of any food source it comes across, Smith said. In addition to eating most any vegetation it finds, they have also been known to eat other animals, such as ground nesting birds and invertebrates. There have even been recorded instances of wild hogs feeding on fawns, Smith said.
Wild hogs have become a nuisance, causing extensive damage to crops and property. During the presentation, Smith showed a picture of a recently sown cornfield where the hogs methodically rooted up every seed, precisely following the rows.
Their quick reproduction times and litter sizes also pose a problem for controlling their populations. Smith said hogs are sexually mature at six months and can have two litters per year containing about six piglets each.
With humans as their primary predator, their mortality rate is relatively low, especially once they reach a size of 40 pounds or more. However, they do have a high mortality rate when young.
In order to control the population, Smith said 70 percent of their numbers would have to be harvested annually.
Smith also addressed the possible use of poisons, chemicals and toxicants as a control method. He said that since there is no way to ensure the substances would be delivered to only the target species, such methods have not been legalized. Contraceptives have also proven ineffective, Smith said.
Control methods currently the most effective entail trapping and killing. Smith gave the attendees examples of a variety of traps that can be built, either at very little expense, or incorporating lots of technology that will ensure most of the hogs are caught.
Simple traps can be built without doors, while more complex traps can utilize technology capable of alerting the landowner that hogs are in the area of the trap through cellphone notifications complete with photos.
There are some things to keep in mind when building a trap. By building a round trap, it will be harder for trapped animals to escape. Also, the walls of the trap should be at least four feet high, if not five feet. And lastly, traps should be constructed without a top to ensure that non-target animals, such as raccoons, are not caught.
For more information on the proper methods to build a trap or about feral hogs in general, visit www.extension.org/feral_hogs.

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