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USDA Looks At Hog Control On A National Level?

February 2, 2015

According to this (decidedly short on detail) article from High Plains Public radio, the USDA is talking about a need to manage feral hogs from a federal level, in order to mitigate the potential for large-scale impacts.

Lee (Charlie Lee, wildlife manager from Kansas State University Research and Extension) went on to say, “unless steps are taken, we could have a major train wreck because of the disease threats that feral hogs pose to our domestic swine operations, and the ecological damage will continue.”

The short piece mentioned that the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is looking into possible solutions, which include sport hunting.  I’m glad to see sport hunters included in the consideration.

Personally, I have mixed feelings about a national-level program to manage feral hogs.

On the one hand, it might alleviate some of the disparity in how different states treat the animals.  Consider, for example, that Texas basically considers them vermin and allows eradication tactics commensurate with that designation.  Dogs, knives, bows, or BB guns… just kill ‘em all!  While hog hunting is a growing industry on Texas hunting ranches, residents of the Lone Star State are encouraged to treat hogs like rats, and kill or trap them at every opportunity.  In many cases, hogs are shot on sight, and left to rot in the field… which sounds like a shame, until you understand just how many hogs there are.  You can only eat so many, and unlike venison, food banks can’t accept feral swine.

Compare that to California’s approach of designating feral hogs as a “game animal,” requiring expensive tags and restricted methods of take.  Many hog hunters in CA limit themselves to one or two tags per year, and with the costs of hunting hogs on private property climbing steadily, the impact of sport hunters on the feral hog population is marginal.  And while depredation permits are fairly easy to get, many landowners recognize a cash value to keeping a population of hogs on their land, in order to attract paying hunters.

But the truth is, neither state seems to be making much headway in reducing or managing the spread of feral hogs.  According to most experts, once you have an established population of feral hogs, you need to kill about 70% of that population annually in order to just maintain stasis.  Otherwise, the best you can hope for is to move them around… temporarily drive them out of targeted areas with hunting and trapping pressure.

Maybe a consistent, nationwide approach, led by the USDA is the answer?

What could possibly go wrong?

 

 

Battle Of The Big Boars… NC vs. TX

January 27, 2015

Funny this should be going on just now, as I’m setting my sights on the move from TX back to the old stomping grounds in NC, but there you go.

First, I read about this monstrosity, taken in northern Texas.  Yeah, read the article and you’ll see that these fellas caught (not shot, but caught) a 790 pound boar hog!  That’s one, big, pig!

From the article:

“When I first saw him, Blaine’s dog looked like an earring or some kind of jewelry hanging off the hog’s head, but it really wasn’t until we got ahold of the hog that I realized how big and powerful this animal was,” Walton said. “We’ve tied hundreds of hogs and there has never been anything like this boar.”

I bet!  Anyway, that not-so-little piggy is going to market (pending veterinary exam to verify no parasites or disease).

And then there was this big sucker, from North Carolina, 707 pounds!

I don’t know what’s going on, but wild hogs in this weight class are supposed to be pretty rare.  Makes me want to load up the .325wsm and get out there!

 

Now This Is Just Funny…

January 26, 2015

Not hilarious, necessarily, but funny… and then, probably only in the context of the article and video.

The Daily Mirror shared this article and the attached video of a wild boar apparently running amuck in a South Korean restaurant.

Unfortunately, I can’t embed the video, but it’s worth watching.  You also have to read the breathlessly, hyperbolic article though.  Wild boar on the menu, indeed.

And then, please respond to the survey at the end of the article.  I’m wondering if you could guess my answer.

Sorry for the brevity of this post.  There's more substantial content coming... sometime.

Pseudorabies Transmission From Hogs To Dogs

January 16, 2015

I know I’ve called this out before, but one of the biggest threats that feral hogs present is the risk of disease that can affect livestock.  While I know they can do some environmental damage, I can’t help the feeling that it’s often overstated.  And I refuse to believe that feral hogs present any more danger to humans than most other wild animals, despite the hype heaped upon them by some media sources.

But one case of something like brucellosis, or pseudorabies, can shut down an entire farm and result in the liquidation of the entire herd.  If the outbreak spreads to multiple animals, it can shut down an entire region, resulting in significant economic disruption.  In short, it seems to me that this is the aspect of the feral hog invasion that we should all be talking about.

But with all that said, I don’t think I ever knew that pseudorabies also presents a deadly threat to dogs.  However, this article from Arkansas provides a harsh reminder that this disease is nothing to mess around with.  It’s something my friends who run hog dogs should pay close attention to, as well as a warning to those of you who have dogs in feral hog country.

While there are some vaccines available for domestic livestock (pseudorabies was declared “eradicated” on US farms in 2004),  there’s nothing out there for Fido.  According to various resources I’ve been able to look up, it’s usually fatal within two to three days, although some dogs will survive.  The best protection is to keep your dog away from feral hogs, including keeping them from eating the uncooked meat or offal.

This isn’t to say that pseudorabies is out there lurking in every hog you encounter.  In fact, it doesn’t seem to be particularly common… although reports seem to be turning up on a regular basis around the country.  In addition to the sick hogs in Arkansas, pseudorabies was recently found in hogs released in Oklahoma.  I don’t know if this represents an uptick in cases, but it should be enough to get our attention.

The disease is transmitted primarily by nose-to-nose or fecal-oral contact.  This puts hog dogs at particular risk, but any dog that spends time where hogs have roamed can be affected.  Also, as mentioned previously, the disease can also be transmitted through the raw meat and offal of infected swine.

The most common symptoms of pseudorabies infection are similar to regular rabies.  The initial symptom is uncontrollable itching, referred to as the “mad itch,”  sometimes accompanied by howling or whining.  This is followed by hyper-salivation (drooling or “foaming” at the mouth).  The next phase involves neurological impacts that can include paralysis of the jaw or neck, sometimes leading to convulsions.  Death is relatively quick, and sometimes comes before the symptoms have even manifested.

Fortunately, so far, pseudorabies is not a threat to humans.  However, feral hogs are known to carry other diseases that are dangerous to man.  I’m the last one to recommend the use of protective gear while dressing and butchering game (because I don’t use it myself), but most game departments and health experts warn hog hunters to use gloves for the messy work, and wash thoroughly when we’re done.

Anyway, I just thought this was something worth sharing on a Friday.

Now, I just wish I could get out there somewhere and hunt myself a (disease free) hog!

 

Porcine Press – New Year, New Regulations, And Keeping Hogs Out Of Montana

January 12, 2015

A new year always brings new regulations to fish and game departments around the country.  North Carolina, for example, is holding public meetings now to discuss new captive cervid laws, intended to provide safeguards against disease, such as CWD.  Louisiana is looking at changes, such as adjustments to hunting regulations to allow handguns during primitive weapons seasons, while Georgia hunters are asked to provide comment on proposals that include switching over to a single, statewide deer season.

While most states are working on regulations to manage the wildlife they already have, Montana is making plans to keep some wildlife out of the state altogether.  On tap in the Big Sky state is a proposal to ban the possession, import, or hunting of wild hogs.

Under Senate Bill 100, the Board of Livestock would have the authority to ban the possession and hunting of wild hogs and could establish penalties for those not abiding by the rules. The board could also control and eradicate the animals.

So far, Montana is one of 11 states that have not reported a population of wild (or feral) hogs, and both wildlife officials and the livestock industry want to keep it that way.  A primary concern is disease, such as brucellosis or pseudorabies, which could infect domestic stock with catastrophic effects.

"Adam Henry" is radio jargon sometimes used by law enforcement or other emergency personnel to signify A-H, or Ass Hole.

“Adam Henry” is jargon sometimes used by law enforcement or other emergency personnel to signify A-H, or Ass Hole.

And why do Montanans think such a law is justified?  Well, we continue to see Adam Henry award candidates, like Wesley Dean Kirton, of Oklahoma, who think it’s a great idea to import and release feral hogs to provide a hunting opportunity, as well as to “train” his hog dogs.  According to officials, some of the hogs he released onto his 40 acre farm tested positive for pseudorabies.  This is no small thing, seeing as how the area of Oklahoma where this took place is also the home of most of the domestic swine farms in the state.

“It will have an impact on the industry itself and cause our prices internationally to go down nationwide and also prevent exports and just the price to go up,” Oklahoma State Department of Agriculture Dr. Justin Roach said.

It’s no secret that the biggest reason feral hogs have spread so widely and so rapidly across the US is transport and release, both legal and illegal, by hunting interests (in some cases, the states themselves actively relocated and encouraged populations of wild hogs).  While I can see that, early on, some folks didn’t realize that releasing hogs into the native habitat was problematic, those days are passed.  The publicity around the “pig bomb” has been widespread, and claims of ignorance no longer garner sympathetic acceptance.  It’s not an “innocent mistake” to turn an invasive, non-native species loose into the environment.

I know it’s a bit of a pipedream, but I long for the day when new regulations are based solely on wildlife management issues, and not in response to hunters behaving badly.

Hunters Helping Farmers Program Kicks Off In GA

October 15, 2014

So, this is worth sharing, particularly for any of my readers who might be located down in the Peach State.

From the press release:

October 14, 2014 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Boars. Wild hogs. Feral Pigs. No matter the term, hogs can be a big problem. Especially for landowners who depend on their property to supply crops that provide for their livelihood. Hunters Helping Farmers is a new program combining the efforts of the Georgia Department of Agriculture and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to help alleviate the agricultural and financial damage caused by these non-native invasive pests.

“It is a natural fit to connect hunters and farmers together to try and help solve this growing problem, says Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black. ‘”In no way will this be a silver bullet, but hopefully one small way we can help assist in this huge issue for our farmers.”

Rooting, trampling and consumption of crops are the most common type of damage seen by farmers. Crops most often destroyed include rice, sorghum, wheat, corn, soybeans, peanuts, potatoes, watermelon and cantaloupe. Hogs also can potentially contribute to bacterial contamination and sedimentation issues in waterways and they can carry numerous diseases, such as brucellosis and pseudo rabies.

“Feral Hogs are known for causing extensive damage,” said Georgia DNR Commissioner Mark Williams. “By matching a hunter who is looking for additional hunting opportunities, with a landowner who needs help dispatching feral hogs, we hope to provide some relief to those who are suffering from this problem.”

The Hunters Helping Farmers program provides a mechanism to help farmers and hunters engage with a similar goal in mind. The goal of the new program is to help facilitate a relationship between farmers looking for ways to control hog issues on their land and hunters looking to hunt them. Interested farmers can register on the Georgia Department of Agriculture website at www.agr.georgia.gov. Information from interested farmers and hunters will be matched based on geographical area and given to the farmer to choose if and when to contact a hunter. The farmer will be responsible for making all arrangements with the hunter.

For more information, call 1-844-464-5455

I’ll be curious to see how this works out, as I’d love to see the model put in place across other states… especially here in Texas (where it’s turned out to be amazingly hard to find a free place to hunt hogs).

More MishMash

July 8, 2014

Because a single, coherent thought is too much to ask right now…

First of all, California hunters should really be paying attention… and attending.

CDFW To Hold Public Workshop on Lead Bullet Ban Implementation

July 7, 2014

Media Contacts:
Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908
Gail Turner, CDFW North Central Region, (916) 358-1075

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will hold a public workshop Tuesday, July 29 to discuss the implementation of the lead bullet ban. The workshop will be held at the Rancho Cordova Library at 9845 Folsom Blvd. in Sacramento from 7-8:30 p.m.

A CDFW representative will detail a proposed implementation plan, the PowerPoint is available on the CDFW website. Following the short presentation, interested parties can make comments and provide input that will help shape CDFW’s final recommendation to the Fish and Game Commission, which CDFW anticipates presenting at the Commission’s meeting in Sacramento in September.

Last year, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 711 requiring that the Commission adopt a regulation to ban lead ammunition in the state no later than July 1, 2015, with full implementation of the ban to occur no later than July 1, 2019. Governor Brown has directed CDFW and the Commission to work with all interested parties in order to produce a regulation that is least disruptive to the hunting community.

In order to determine what is least disruptive to hunters, CDFW has been reaching out to interested parties this year in a number of ways, including question and answer sessions at sportsmen’s shows, meetings with hunting organizations and now a series of public workshops throughout the state. A public workshop was held in Ventura in April and Eureka in June. Another is planned in Redding on July 19. After Sacramento, planning is underway for workshops in August in San Diego, Fresno and Riverside/San Bernardino. In addition, individuals and organizations may email comments to wildlifemgmt@wildlife.ca.gov (please use “Nonlead implementation” in the subject line) or mail hard copy correspondence to:

CDFW, Wildlife Branch
Attn: Nonlead implementation
1812 9th Street
Sacramento, CA 95811

Louisiana hog hunters and farmers might be interested to learn that the Pelican State may soon legalize the use of helicopters to shoot feral hogs.  Taking a cue from Texas, LA wildlife managers and agriculture agents are looking at expanding the use of helicopters on private lands.  According to this article from the Times-Picayune, all Louisiana hog hunters aren’t happy about the possibility because they are afraid the sharpshooters will kill off all of the hogs and leave none for sportsmen.

(State wildlife veterinarian Jim) LaCour said he wishes it were that easy, but he told commissioners the state would have to kill 75 percent of its hogs every year just maintain a static population. The creatures are remarkably fecund, producing two litters a year with an average of six piglets per litter.

By the way, wildlife officials in Arizona are warning hunters to shop early if they hope to find lead-free ammunition for use this season.  As many hunters learned last year, the “ready availability” so often touted by lead-ban proponents is not really the case at all.  Finding lead-free ammo, even for standard calibers, was a challenge… especially for those shopping at smaller, local stores.  But even the major outlets, including Cabelas and Bass Pro Shops ran short on the shelves, and even the online inventory went dry for periods of time.

On the national picture, the Senate is moving ahead with S2363, the Sportsmen’s Act.  According to a release from the NSSF, the vote to move ahead was substantial, with an 82-12 majority in favor.  Of course, next comes the crush of irrelevant amendments and such as the political wrangling gets serious, but hopefully we’ll see the bulk of this thing come through without too much damage.

At any rate, I’m not planning to become an outdoor news aggregator site anytime soon, but I did find all of these topics worth sharing… partly in the interest of keeping you folks informed, and partly just because it’s all I’ve got for content right now.  But stay tuned… who knows what secrets lie in the hearts of hogs?

 

The Swine Invasion – Latest News From The Front

June 23, 2014

Monitoring the news feeds as always, I saw a couple of interesting articles regarding the efforts to manage the spread of feral hogs around the country.  First, let’s talk toxins.

At this moment, there is no approved toxin for controlling feral hogs.  While there are some products on the market that have been used (illegally in many cases), there’s nothing that is specific enough to impact a hog without posing a threat to other animals… either through direct contact or through the food chain.  Poisons are, too often, indiscriminate killers.  I’ve heard of people who have used various poisons, and almost always get a description of a “trail of carcasses,” from raccoons and opossums, to porcupines, coyotes, and birds.  There’s a reason it’s generally illegal to use this stuff… and even where legal, most folks tend to steer clear.

There’s also concern, quite valid, about using poisons on a species that some of us eat.  A pig (or an accidentally poisoned deer) can carry a pretty lethal load in its bloodstream.  The unwitting hunter who shoots one of these animals for the table is in for a nasty… or potentially lethal… surprise.  With any luck, the results will be minor illness.  But more serious consequences are definitely possible, especially if the meat is consumed by more susceptible members of the family, such as youngsters or older folks.

But what if there were a toxin that could target feral hogs without being harmful to other species?  What if, in fact, the most effective toxin for killing pigs is something we actually add to bacon for our own consumption?

I’ve mentioned this before, in passing, but researchers from the USDA and a couple of universities have discovered that sodium nitrite can be lethal to hogs.  The research is currently ongoing, as they have yet to reach the USDA’s benchmark of a 90% kill rate, but the results so far are promising.  This could be welcome news to agricultural interests and wildlife managers seeking to protect sensitive habitat, as well as to suburban homeowners in places where other control methods such as shooting or trapping are not as viable.  This article from ABC News online has a little more information, including some of the challenges and responses the researchers have to overcome in this effort.

From the ground to the air…

Aerial shooting has also proven to be a useful tool for hog control, particularly in flat, open land such as parts of Texas.  Attacking the animals from helicopters allows marksmen to kill large numbers of hogs in a single outing, thinning the local population and often driving the remaining animals off of the property.  The thing is, there aren’t enough airborne marksmen to do the job on a large-scale basis.  A couple of years back, Texas made it legal for individuals to pay for a helicopter “hunt”, but these outings are pretty expensive, putting them out of the reach of budget-conscious hunters.  That leaves a lot of ground to cover by a small handful of specialized teams.

Enter “Operation Dustoff”. 

According to their website, the mission of Operation Dustoff is as follows:

This program was developed and designed to strengthen and foster the most successful well-adjusted group of wounded service members. Our goal is to raise awareness and utilize the public’s aid to address the needs of injured/wounded service members. We are taking what the service members were trained to do for our country and creating functionality that will help them become a valuable resource to our community by utilizing their trade as an asset for hog eradication. These service members will also develop a sense of camaraderie with other injured/wounded service members by finding a common bond through friendly competition and enjoyment. Operation Dustoff provides unique and direct programs and services to meet the needs of injured/wounded service members.

The project is currently funded by corporate sponsorship and donations, and looks to build a core team of skilled, aerial marksmen to help combat the spread of feral hogs and to mitigate the damage they do, primarily to agricultural interests.  The hope is that by using trained and professional operators, more farmers will be willing to hire the teams for fly-over shooting.  At the same time, the program intends to provide a supportive opportunity and community for wounded veterans.

It sounds like a net positive to me.

If you’re interested in learning more about Operation Dustoff, either as sponsor or a participant, check out their website at: http://opdustoff.com/?page_id=21.

CA Considering Removing Feral Hogs’ “Game Animal” Status?

May 5, 2014

That may be a misleading headline since it’s apparently pretty early in the game here, but according to a revised bill, AB2268,  from Anthony Rendon, this may be part of new laws and regulations intended to get a grip on the booming, CA hog population.

The full text of the bill can be read online, at the LegInfo website, but here’s a quick summary of what I read.

First of all, the bill calls for the CA DFW to conduct a study on the population of the CA wild hogs in order to get a realistic, current picture of the extent of the animals and their impacts on habitat and agriculture.  While the original justification of the wild pig tags was to cover the costs of this kind of research, it’s apparent that there are more questions and speculation than there are empirical facts.  More research needs to be done, and realistic (science-based) management plans need to be drafted.

Among other recommendations in the bill are the suggestions that wild pigs should no longer be classified as game animals (a designation they’ve held since 1957).  This classification imposes limitations on hunters, such as the requirement to buy a tag for each pig killed.  These limitations, in turn, reduce the wild pig harvest.  The game animal status also puts limitations on landowners by restricting depredation efforts.

Personally, I think it’s about time someone stepped up and took a hard look at the way CA is managing the wild pig population.  I’m sure that someone, somewhere in the DFW, saw the popularity of pig hunting as a potential cash cow for the Golden State’s coffers, but with pig tags running about the same price as deer tags, the number of pigs being killed (legally) by sport hunters will be limited.

AB2268 is definitely worth keeping an eye on, and as I keep saying… CA hunters, step up and make your voices heard.  Get educated and get involved if you want to see positive change in your state.

New York To Ban Hunting And Trapping Eurasian Boar

April 29, 2014

No huntingIt looks like the State of New York is stepping up its battle against the growing population of wild hogs by taking some pretty drastic steps.

Back in October, NY Governor Mario Cuomo signed legislation banning the release of Eurasian boar into the wild (mea culpa… the Hog Blog missed this and failed to report when it happened). The same legislation will phase out all import, sale, breeding, and possession of Eurasian boar throughout New York by September of 2015, effectively shutting down high fence hunting throughout the Empire State.

As justification for the ban, the NY Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) points to the number of wild boar which have escaped from high fence hunting facilities and established populations in the wild. Efforts to contain the spread of these invasive, non-native swine have proven expensive and challenging, as hogs are both prolific breeders and highly intelligent animals. They quickly learn to avoid traps, and if an entire sounder isn’t captured, the remaining animals can quickly rebuild their populations.

As part of the control effort, sport hunters have been able to shoot wild hogs on sight. Property owners have also been permitted to set traps to protect agriculture and landscaping. According to officials from the DEC, rather than helping, these efforts appear to be hindering organized eradication efforts by scattering and pressuring the hogs.

As a result, in order to allow the DEC and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to successfully carry out an eradication program, sport hunting and trapping of wild hogs will no longer be allowed in New York state. The new regulation, adopted on April 23 follows:

Part 180, Section 180.12 – Eurasian Boar – Express Terms Adopted April 23, 2014

Express Terms

6 NYCRR Part 180 (“Miscellaneous Regulations”) is amended to add a new Section 180.12 entitled “Eurasian boar” to read as follows:

Section 180.12 Eurasian boar

(a) Prohibitions.

(1) No person shall hunt, trap, take or engage in any activity, including the use of dogs, that is likely to result in the taking of any free-ranging Eurasian boar, as defined in Environmental Conservation Law section 11-0514. “Free-ranging” shall mean any Eurasian boar that is not lawfully possessed within a completely enclosed or fenced facility from which the animal cannot escape to the wild.

(2) No person shall disturb, move, destroy, tamper with, obstruct, damage, open or interfere with any lawfully set Eurasian boar trap, net or capture device. No person shall release, remove or transport any live Eurasian boar caught in any trap, net or capture device.

(3) Exceptions. This section shall not apply to any state or federal agency, to any member of a law enforcement agency acting in accordance with their official duties, or to any other person permitted to take Eurasian boar pursuant to Environmental Conservation Law section 11-0521 or section 11-0523. Any person who takes a free-ranging Eurasian boar pursuant to any of the above exceptions shall promptly notify the Department and follow all instructions given by the Department with respect to handling and disposition of the carcass.

Is this a good thing?  I don’t know.

I’ve always felt that sport hunters are not the right agents to carry out eradication efforts.  There are a lot of reasons for this, but not the least of them is that many sport hunters are so indoctrinated to certain ethical standards that they’re unwilling to take the extreme measures required to wipe out a population… such as shooting wet sows and babies.  Many sport hunters don’t want to kill more than they can eat (or carry), and will shoot one or two hogs out of a sounder and move on.

It’s also true that trying to eradicate a species like wild hogs by shooting individual animals is like trying to drain the ocean with a shot glass.  The only way to remove the animals is to get entire sounders in a single engagement, and this requires trapping on a pretty large scale.  The other alternative is poisoning, and while progress is being made on a targeted poison bait for wild hogs; the risks to other wildlife, livestock, and pets is high.

On the other hand, eradication may prove to be an over-ambitious undertaking.  In NY, as I understand, the hogs are still pretty geographically isolated, and that does give an advantage to the government trappers.  However, it only takes a couple of hogs to establish a population pretty quickly.  If the eradication isn’t absolute, the animals will spread and establish in new areas.  It’s not a little ironic that this possibility (spreading the animals out) was one of the justifications used by the DEC in deciding to ban sport hunting for wild hogs.

As far as shutting down the high fence operations, well, I can’t help thinking that’s really overkill.  If the animals in the wild are truly escapees from the captive facilities (and they could be, I can’t dispute that), then it points to a need for better management and regulation.  It also suggests that accountability is not sufficient, and the facility operators should be held responsible for the costs and efforts of containment.  This should not be an insurmountable problem, and shutting down an industry over a few bad operators just never makes sense to me.

But that’s just my opinion.

At any rate, Empire State hunters can still pursue Eurasian wild boar on the preserves until September, 2015.  After that, hopeful hog hunters will have to set their sights on another state.

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