Talkin' Outdoors

Imagine that you have a feral hog problem on your farm, your pasture or your hunting club. Feeders knocked down and torn up, pastures and food plots rooted up, crops destroyed are just some of the problems these pesky animals are causing, not to mention the spread of disease. Takes little imagination because I’m betting you probably have feral hogs where you hunt or farm.

During deer season, hunters on deer stands are taking the occasional hog they see. What is most discouraging is the fact that every year you have to remove 70 to 75% of the hog population on a given area to keep the population at a static level. An impossible task to accomplish every single year? Probably so but efforts to try and control the growing population of feral hogs by some groups is making a dent in their numbers.

Three procedures that are taking place in a portion of the state could be accurately called “High Tech”. By the use of gunners in helicopters, drones to fly over areas to locate groups of pigs and remote controlled traps are showing promise of taking a good number of feral pigs.

Glenn Austin, District Conservationist with the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) has the area of Winn and Natchitoches parishes as his territory.

“Every year, the conservation districts meet to determine what local conservation priorities are. In general, issues brought up in the past have had to do with soil erosion and water quality but increasingly,” said Austin, “the subject of what to do about feral hogs has been the main topic.

“We decided to see what could be done. The first thing we tried was the use of helicopters for aerial gunning, and it was been quite effective on two wildlife refuges in Natchitoches Parish. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service contacted me and wanted to know if any landowners near the refuges might be interested. We held a meeting with such landowners and they were agreeable to give it a try.”

That was five years ago. A sign up period was set up with landowners agreeing to pay $1 per acre to cover costs and within that two-week period, 40,000 acres were included in the program. Today, the fee is 60 cents per acre to use aerial gunning.

“That first year, aerial gunners in helicopters killed between 700 and 800 hogs on private land. Using drones to locate groups of pigs, information was relayed to helicopter gunners and the game was on,” said Austin.

Another method of trying to reduce feral hog numbers was put into effect, the use of remote controlled traps.

Two weeks ago, my sister, Linda Dupree, posted a message on Face Book about the use of the traps.

“I was sitting at home watching television when I got a signal and photo on my phone from a remote camera set up next to the trap we have on loan from Austin’s office. I sent a text to my son, who used his phone to release the trap and the whole bunch of pigs feeding on bait in the trap were caught,” she said.

Austin’s agency has four such traps available for loan to residents of Natchitoches Parish. To his knowledge, no other district in the state has such an arrangement. Funds used for purchase of traps were generated by excess dollars in the aerial gunning program plus funds raised by tree sales.

While these promising methods of putting a dent in the population of feral hogs in only this one small part of the state, I have one question. Why don’t other areas of the state follow suit? Just wondering.