By Joel D. Glover, Certified Wildlife Biologist, Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries
How would you like a new and exciting year-round hunting opportunity that could be accommodated on your property with no added habitat requirements? Not only is the species challenging to hunt, but the population almost immediately replaces any animals that are removed. If this isn’t enough, add the adrenaline rush of hunting a “dangerous” animal. This opportunity is available right now. Thousands of landowners are more than willing to share their animals with you. “This is too good to be true,” you are probably thinking. Why would these landowners be so willing to set you up with this great opportunity? The answer is simple. They have had all the “fun” they can stand. Their wild hogs have not only destroyed once-good wildlife habitat, they have migrated onto all the neighbors’ properties and are even rooting up their yards and gravel roads. They will gladly give you every one of them!
Unfortunately, many landowners have fallen into a “hog trap.” They may have heard about problems associated with having wild hogs on their property, but they thought the fun new hunting experience would outweigh the negatives. While hog hunting can be enjoyable, the fun quickly dissipates when you begin to realize the animals are destroying the habitat of many other desirable wildlife species and their numbers are out of control.
The wild hog population in the United States, and especially the Southeast, has grown exponentially in the past few years. While several factors are involved, it is primarily a result of their tremendous reproductive capability. Wild hogs are capable of having three litters in 14 months. Litter sizes range from four to 14 piglets. These pigs are sexually mature at 6 months of age and begin having their own litters. Therefore, the numbers quickly go through the roof. It is no surprise the population quickly exceeds the carrying capacity of the habitat causing habitat destruction and often a migration onto adjacent properties.
Many people do not understand that wild hogs are opportunistic omnivores--meaning they will eat almost anything--with a keen sense of smell. Not only do they vacuum up any available hard and soft mast, they also consume the eggs of ground-nesting birds and have been reported to kill and eat deer fawns and domestic calves. In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates wild hogs cause $800 million of damage to agriculture annually in the United States.
With few exceptions, landowners who have hogs wish that they didn’t. Control methods can be effective in removing hogs if they are pursued aggressively and for the long haul. Active trapping is the most effective method and should be embraced by landowners who have hog problems. Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Wildlife Biologist Chris Jaworowski has worked with other wildlife damage professionals to develop a publication to assist landowners in this endeavor. “Managing Wild Pigs,” a technical guide, is available from the Berryman Institute.
If you start thinking wild hogs might be a good thing for your property, don’t fall in that hog trap!