Author: Chris Regnier
Published: February 21, 2019
POTOSI, Mo. – Feral hogs are causing massive problems for farmers and others in multiple states including Missouri. An organized effort is underway in the Show Me State to try and wipe them out.
The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) calls the hogs an invasive species. Our news crew witnessed firsthand the damage that hogs can cause to farmland.
Lou Dammrich showed us damage on his farmland in rural Washington County, west of Potosi. The hogs rooted up a lot of soil on his land and the farm next to his. That rooting leads to damaged equipment.
Dammrich’s hay production is also reduced and his cattle won’t graze on the damaged land.
“What they dig up, you know, there’s no piece of equipment I can run over it and just repair the damage. So, we gotta kind of trial and error,” he said.
His grandson, Rob Dammrich, added: “I walk the woods one evening. I’ll come back and walk the same trail the next morning and the amount of damage done is remarkable. I mean, it happens that quick.”
MDC officials say hogs can destroy 10 acres in a single night. And farmland damage isn’t the only problem feral hogs can cause.
“They compete with our native wildlife for food and habitat,” said Tom Meister, a wildlife damage biologist for the MDC in the St. Louis area. “Their favorite food is acorns; well, that’s the same thing as turkey and deer. Their favorite is acorns and so they’re eating up those crops and as they do that they’re destroying the landscape, rooting, and destroying the wetlands and fens. And then they also carry at least 17 different nasty diseases that can be transmitted to the livestock.”
Meister heads up the MDC’s feral hog strike team in the St. Louis region.
There are multiple teams in the state. The MDC also partners with other agencies and private landowners to try and wipe out the hogs.
Last year alone, 9,365 hogs were killed by the Missouri Department of Conservation, its partner groups, and private landowners. That was a significant jump from 2017 when 6,561 hogs were killed.
Meister says feral hogs are currently the worst in southeast Missouri. According to Meister, feral hogs are not native to Missouri and they’re not migrating here either.
“They’re actually being released by people for opportunities to hunt them and they’re selling hunts charging people to go out and guide them to hunt the hogs,” he said.
The hogs reproduce at a very high rate. A female hog can start reproducing at just six months old. She can have three litters a year, with several piglets in each litter.
“The folks with agricultural don’t want them, folks in conservation don’t want them, people who enjoy nature don’t want them. They’re just bad,” said Alan Leary, who oversees the statewide MDC program to eliminate feral hogs.
You might think the best way to combat feral hogs would be to shoot them on site. But authorities say no. In fact, it’s illegal to hunt feral hogs on MDC land.
Leary and Meister say the hogs run in herds known as sounders. If somebody shoots one, then the rest might scatter and get away.
That’s why traps are used.
Feed is put in the traps to attract many hogs then the animals trip a device and they can’t get out. The hogs are then shot and killed.
And the battle isn’t only being fought on the ground. Authorities at times shoot hogs from helicopters.
It’s a full court press to trap and kill as many feral hogs as possible.
“We gotta get rid of them,” said Dammrich.
Meister says feral hogs that are killed can be eaten but not all people like the meat. The many diseases that the hogs carry also raise safety concerns about eating the meat.
State Rep. Jered Taylor (R-Nixa) has proposed legislation allowing for feral hogs to be killed, processed, and sold as bacon, ribs, and roast.
Meister says there is no exact way to tell how many feral hogs are left in Missouri – thousands for sure. As a result, the fight to eradicate the hogs will continue for years to come.
© 2019 KTVI