Feral hog experts to lawmakers: 'You can't hunt your way out of this problem'


Austin Huguelet, News-Leader (MO)

Feb. 12, 2020


JEFFERSON CITY — Government officials have taken a lot of heat of late for the way they’ve dealt with Missouri’s feral hog problem.


After the U.S. Forest Service banned hunting pigs in Mark Twain National Forest in December, at the request of Missouri’s Department of Conservation, dozens came to the capital to protest. Others flagrantly ignored the ban. A lawmaker threatened MDC’s funding and said MDC's plan to trap and kill pigs on public lands without help from hunters won't work.


Outside experts MDC invited to speak to lawmakers Wednesday morning didn't seem fazed, though, and they didn't back down when some of those lawmakers challenged what they said.


When Mike Bodenchuk, who oversees efforts to eliminate the destructive pigs in Texas, took the microphone, he didn’t mince words: “You can’t hunt your way out of this problem.”


Bodenchuk said he knows that because Texas tried it. State officials there allowed private citizens to hunt, which he said encouraged an industry to bloom with an export market to boot, and the hog population exploded.


Government efforts kill tens of thousands of hogs each year, he said, but millions still roam the state wreaking havoc on crops, spreading diseases and killing young livestock and sea turtles. They caused $89 million in damage to the state’s six main crops alone last year, he said.


“Allowing people to hunt them, putting a meat market in there and not regulating the movement of pigs allowed us to go from a few thousand pigs to 2.6 million to 3 million pigs,” Bodenchuk said. “Our experience is that’s a train wreck.”


Dale Nolte, who oversees federal efforts to deal with feral swine across the country, said the prognosis is better in Missouri, where hog hunting is banned on MDC lands and Mark Twain National Forest.


He conceded Missouri likely wouldn’t be free of the beasts for more than a decade.


Currently, they occur in more than 30 counties and number in the tens of thousands, according to government data.


But Nolte said joint state-federal efforts, which have included trapping hogs on public and private land as well as helicopter hunts, are “moving in the right direction to significantly reduce problems and in the long run, eradicate feral swine.”


At least a couple of lawmakers weren’t sure about that after the hearing, though...


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