SEEING A FERAL HOG in thick snow was surreal to me.
I had seen thousands in swamps, cactus thickets and rocky canyons in Texas, Tennessee, Louisiana and Florida, but seeing one bust out from behind a tree on a snow-covered hill in Michigan was wild.
This was back in 2001; just 20 years after the first feral hogs were spotted in Michigan. Now they are in virtually every county in the state. The feral hog issue is definitely most pronounced in the South but hogs are becoming increasingly common in the North.
A decade ago I did an interview with a radio station in New Jersey because they had just opened a hog hunting. The host wanted advice about how to deal with these invasive exotics. If states on the northern tier of their range in America do not take action, hogs will gain a permanent foothold above the Mason-Dixon line.
Some states have taken an unusual stance on dealing with hogs. They have made hunting them illegal. It seems counterintuitive to eliminate a potential method of removing many hogs.
In states such as New York, Minnesota and Kansas, they reason that the spread of feral hogs has had much to do with ranches that put them behind high fences for hunting. Hogs of course escape and the population outside the fence spreads.
I have no doubt this has contributed greatly to the spread of hogs in my native Texas and have written on this here in Texas Fish & Game. It’s a bizarre idea to prohibit a hunter who is out to seek deer, for example, from killing a hog when at the end of the day, state officials will have to kill hogs to stop their spread.
Perhaps simply banning importing them or transporting live pigs would be better. It will be interesting to see how management of hogs changes as they multiply.
Will states that ban hunting hogs see success in their fight against this foreign invader? Or will they have to change their tactics?
I predicted the urban areas of the country would see a huge increase in hogs including gigantic ones. We are seeing that unfold at this very moment.
I am now predicting the following regarding hogs:
• Within a decade every state in the Northeast will have growing hog populations, perhaps with the exception of Maine.
If you give hogs remote areas in which to prosper, they can go virtually undetected for a while. That will give them a chance to breed enough to usurp standard control practices.
• The push to poison hogs will continue. Texas hunters and wildlife lovers resisted that a few years back, but there are now studies going on now that use sodium nitrite, which has been employed in Australia in the past.
I predict if Texas hunters put up a fight again, we’ll see northern states give the green light to “experimental” poisoning. that will pave the way for a more open door on this practice in the United States.
• Hog hunting prices will continue to increase in Texas. As landowners complain about too many hogs on their property, many of them will keep raising the price of hunting.
So are hogs a problem on their property? or only a problem if they are not marketable? I feel for landowners who have done their best to contain hogs, but not so much for those who charge $1,000 for a hog hunt, then wonder why they can’t kill enough to lessen the damage on their properties.
• Cities will go to extreme measures to eliminate hogs. Several already allow hunters with dogs to take them out. Who would have thought any major city would allow something that could potentially get animal rights activists so worked up? I guess in the long run some solutions can only be found through a hunter who actually has a clue about how things work and has a nice pack of cur dogs.
These highly adaptive swine have proved they can thrive in the face of great pressure from hunters, professional hog trappers and even growing urbanization.
The feral hog invasion of the north continues. It will take intensive action and focused management to stop their forward momentum.
Email Chester Moore at [email protected]