An attack has been waged against feral hogs in some of Mississippi’s national wildlife refuges, but the government is losing. As a result, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is calling for more help.
“We’re infested with hogs. It’s bad,” Mike Rich, project leader for the Theodore Roosevelt National Wildlife Refuge Complex, said. “Since the flood, we’ve seen exponential growth.”
The flood Rich mentioned was the historic Mississippi River flood of 2011 that pushed man and animals to higher ground. During that time, federal officers took advantage of the concentrations of pigs along levees and other exposed areas, shooting them wherever they were found.
“We thought we had done a pretty good number on them then,” Rich said. “It was pretty amazing how they bounced back from the flood of 2011.”
Rich said other tactics have also been employed. Hunters are encouraged to shoot hogs whenever encountered and trapping and shooting programs are also in place.
“There’s definitely a take, but it’s not controlling the numbers,” Rich said. “We need to do more than that.”
With the ground assault failing, the USFWS is looking to attack from the sky.
A proposal was recently announced that would add tracking and shooting hogs from helicopters at the 7 NWRs in the complex. The shooting would be done during the early spring to minimize impacts on hunting and migratory bird populations.
The same tactic is used in other states, and Rich said he is encouraged by results.
“It seems to be (effective) because they can see hogs we can’t from the roads or wherever we’re hunting,” Rich said. “It’s just another tool for us to manage hogs.”
While there will be the cost of hiring private professionals to perform the service, Rich said the damage warrants it.
Rich said the damage includes roads, habitat, levees, competing with native wildlife for food and destroying nests of ground-nesting birds.
“I can’t put a number value on it (the damage) without it being a wild guess, but it’s to the point of being very bad to devastating,” Rich said. “They’ll eat anything they come into contact with.
“It’s an exotic species that should not be on the landscape, so they are very tough on the landscape as a whole.”
They are also tough on the neighbors. Larry Clanton, of Tchula, farms land that joins Morgan Brake NWR. Not only does he spend money on guns, bullets and traps to control them, he said he loses about $5,000 annually on that section of land due to hogs from the refuge.
“Morgan Brake Refuge is the incubator for hogs,” Clanton said. “We’ve got none on our place; they’re coming from the refuge.”
Despite killing upwards of 100 hogs a year on his Tchula property, they just keep coming. Clanton said he has lost as much as 42 rows of newly planted seed in a single night.
“They’ll go straight down a corn row,” Clanton said. “You can’t drive a tractor as straight as they go getting every one of those seeds.”
Damage to crops like Clanton’s is also something Rich hopes to mitigate.
“We know we’ve got the big piece of timber for hogs,” Rich said. “We just want to be good neighbors.”
For more information about the Feral Swine Damage Management Plan draft and Environmental Assessment, visit www.fws.gov/refuge/panther_swamp.
Copies are also available at the USFWS office, 12595 MS Hwy. 149, Yazoo City. Public comments will be accepted through Feb. 4.