Written by Mattie Crouch, OFN ContributorIf you have heard the buzz from farmers and ranchers lately, you know that there is a new kind of plague troubling farms and grasslands – wild (feral) hogs. Wild hogs are not exactly new to the Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri regions, yet they now pose a large threat simply because there are so many of them. Wild hogs are very destructive by nature, with their long tough snouts that can plow up crops and grasslands as they forage for food. The estimated damage to agriculture in 2009 was upwards of $58 million, and landowners have spent over $10 million trying to control wild hogs.
While wild hogs are extremely destructive they can also carry disease and parasites which can be spread to livestock and in some instances to humans. The region in which a wild hog lives will often have an effect on its susceptibility to disease and parasites. While these diseases are not necessarily fatal to humans they are to livestock.
The destruction caused by wild hogs is not exclusive to farmers and cattlemen. Sportsmen also find themselves with a hog situation. While wild hogs do not tend to hunt and kill small animals they are opportunist, and have been known to kill and eat newborn fawns and baby quail.
Wild hogs are very prolific. A sow can raise two and sometimes three litters a year with an average of four to six piglets per litter, depending on the breeding of the feral sow. A wild feral gilt can breed at 6 to 8 months old. Once a sow reaches breeding age she can produce 1,200 plus feral hogs in a 5-year period. The national population of feral hogs in 2009 was estimated at near 8 million. Imagine what is happening if one fourth of these are breeding sows.
The average size of a wild hog is 100 to 150 pounds, although in some regions they can weigh up to 600 pounds, depending on the food availability. It may be hard to believe but, wild hogs are very good swimmers and can run at a good speed for miles without tiring. Sportsmen enjoy the chase and the hunt, perhaps this is the reason for hunting lodges popping up in the hills across Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri where the hogs are getting more numerous. Yet this can only put a small dent in the wild hog population. Some farmers have found that trapping and selling hogs to hunting ranches can bring in a little extra revenue, but most just shoot on sight.
One contribution to the over population of the wild hog is the catch and release practice by those who do not understand the detriment they can cause. "Allowing these pests to over populate would be disastrous," stated Ralph Webb a retired rancher and wild hog hunter. Ralph lives at the foot of the Poteau Mountains in Le Flore County, where the hog population is exploding.
In conclusion, there is no easy answer to the wild hog plight. Wild hogs have always roamed these countrysides and most likely always will. Farmers and ranchers will continue to cope with them in the best ways possible, just as they do so many other problems related to their profession.
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