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Outdoors enthusiasts can help control population, but hunting not solution

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Christopher Columbus is to blame for starting the feral hog problem in North America.

That’s how old of a problem wild pigs are.

When the earliest European explorers came to the Americas, they didn’t know what they’d find for food, so they brought some hogs with them. Instead of continuing to haul more hogs all the way across the ocean on each trip, they started turning them loose, where they could find some upon returning.

I recently attended a feral hog workshop with wildlife experts from across the Midwest. Representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, state game agencies, Purdue University, nuisance wildlife eradication specialists and more came together with one goal in mind — eradicating feral hogs from the landscape.

Across North America, feral hogs cause an estimated $1.5 billion a year in damage, including $800 million in damage to farms. Hogs are voracious eaters and can decimate an agricultural field overnight. They outcompete native wildlife for food.

For example, a 200-pound hog will eat five times as many pounds of acorns a day as a 200-pound deer. It doesn’t take many hogs to eliminate critical food sources for deer and other wildlife species.

“In the Deep South, the battle is already lost,” said Parker Hall, an Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service scientist with the USDA.

In Indiana, feral hogs have become much more of a problem than most Hoosiers realize, and like most wildlife issues, humans are to blame for the problem.

“Gooseneck trailers are one of the biggest problems we face with feral hogs,” Hall said.

What Hall means is, people are trapping hogs, loading them in a trailer and hauling them to other parts of the state to create populations for hunting. The people doing this either don’t know about the destructive nature of hogs or simply don’t care.

Either way, it’s illegal and must be discouraged.

As counterintuitive as it seems, hunting is not the answer to eliminating feral hogs from Indiana. In fact, scientists emphasize the importance of discouraging hunting because once a culture of hog hunting is established, then hog hunters will want hogs on the landscape. A desire for hogs impedes the need to eradicate them from the state.

That said, if you see a feral hog while you are out hunting, kill it. There is no season or limit. If you see hogs rooting up a field, kill them. Just don’t chase them with dogs, which just helps push them into new areas.

Trapping is the most effective means of population control today. Bait draws hogs into an enclosure, where they are dispatched. Although trapping works, it likely won’t end the pig problem.

Sows can have more than 30 babies a year.

According to a recent The Associated Press article, a preservative used to cure bacon is being tested as a poison for feral hogs. Sodium nitrite is used in Australia and New Zealand, and even though U.S. scientists say it may be the best answer, they have yet to begin using it. Scientists are studying its effects on trapped hogs but have yet to see it kill at a rate of

90 percent, which is the number the EPA requires for use.

Feral hogs’ destructive nature and the scientific and economical problems they create hurt our state. Thankfully, scientists from a number of agencies are working together to stop the problem.

See you down the trail.

Brandon Butler’s outdoors column appears Saturdays in the Daily Journal. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.

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