Author: Bryce Gray
Published: February 4th, 2019
WASHINGTON COUNTY, MO. • With final puffs of steamy breath coming from its slightly tusked snout, the second boar collapsed at the edge of the trap, right next to the other.
Two fewer targets in Missouri’s fight against invasive feral hogs.
Felled by well-placed gunshots, together the two formed a hairy black heap of perhaps 400 pounds or more — animals that, before meeting their demise, were destructive outsiders among the surrounding patches of farmland and thick Ozark forests.
But the scene that unfolded last Sunday on Jerry Richards’ farm in remote Washington County, about 80 miles southwest of St. Louis, represents an all-too-elusive payout for the property owners and government officials working to contain the introduced species.
In recent years, feral hogs have been a growing problem in Missouri — causing damage to property and farms, competing with native species, and harboring diseases that could threaten domesticated pigs. But the on-the-ground fight to control them is an unforgiving scramble against their smarts, their prolific ability to multiply, and the people who introduce them to the state.
It’s hard enough to simply keep the population at bay, let alone dent it, explains Tom Meister, a wildlife damage biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation and the lead coordinator of hog control efforts across an 18-county area that includes the St. Louis region.
Female hogs, or sows, can have three litters per year and start breeding at just 6 months old. “Studies show that you need to kill 80 percent of them just to maintain the population,” Meister said.
He believes the hog population in Missouri is higher than ever, with the species largely found south of Interstate 44 and especially prevalent in southeast Missouri. And even though the MDC reports that more than 9,300 feral hogs were killed in the state last year — a more than 40 percent jump from the 6,500 killed in 2017 — it’s difficult to gauge whether control efforts are working to reverse the tide.
“I’d like to think there’s a significant impact, but there’s no way to tell for sure,” Meister said.
© 2019 St. Louis Post-Dispatch