Although hunting feral pigs is legal, their live transport and release has been illegal in Alabama since 1997. An investigation by Conservation Officers in the Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) has led to arrest warrants issued for 16 people in seven Alabama counties and two other states for the illegal transport, release or live possession of feral pigs.
Thirteen Alabama residents were arrested in Barbour, Choctaw, Fayette, Marengo, Mobile, Monroe and Sumter counties. In addition, two violators in Florida and one in Mississippi will also be served warrants.
For almost two years, WFF investigators concentrated on feral hog related hunting, trapping and sales activities to determine the extent of the transport or release of feral swine in Alabama. Their findings revealed an accepted culture among some hog hunters where laws governing possession or transport of live feral hogs were ignored.
“Contrary to the law, some persons continue to trap pigs for live sale to others, and in some cases carry them across state lines,” said Chief Enforcement Officer Kevin Dodd. “We documented feral pigs being trussed up and transported in car trunks, dog boxes and back seats of vehicles for release elsewhere,” he said.
“In some cases, pigs were purposefully mutilated by cutting off their ears or breaking out their teeth. This mutilation was done during the training and conditioning of hunting dogs. While the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources strongly supports lawful and humane hunting, it does not condone any activity that involves the live possession of feral hogs for the purpose of training dogs.”
Despite the number of arrests in this investigation, Dodd says that much of the illegal transport of feral swine is conducted by individuals. “We are not seeing a large, organized effort with this violation. It seems to be pockets of individuals seeking to benefit.”
Feral swine have been documented in nearly every Alabama county where they cause extensive agricultural damages and compete with native wildlife. Economic damages are severe in many regions. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that feral swine in the United States cause more than $1.5 billion in damages and control costs each year. They can damage almost any commercial crop by foraging, feeding, chewing, rooting and trampling it. This animal does not spare trees, either. Hogs will disturb newly planted seedlings and damage larger trees by chewing roots or girdling them by continuously rubbing the bark.
In addition to the rapid reproduction rate of feral swine, much of their expansive growth is attributed to some hog hunters who catch, transport and release the animals for hunting and training hunting dogs. As a deterrent, in 2015 the offense in Alabama increased from a class C to a class B misdemeanor, which carries a mandatory fine of $2,500 and possible jail time of up to 180 days.
Dodd warns violators that WFF will continue to investigate and charge anyone who disregards the law relating to transport, release or live possession of feral swine. “This is a prime example where one individual’s simple violation can negatively affect numerous others,” he said. “We will continue to do everything possible to eliminate this illegal activity.”