Thursday, February 14, 2008

A little hog history

Linda, a blogger friend from Pennsylvania asked several questions about the wild hogs in our valley.

The rumor is approximately five years ago an unknown individual released a group of pigs in the valley. They are a mixture of domestic and Russian wild boar. Pictures taken with a trail cam several years ago confirm that mixture. Older hogs have long sharp tusks. It only takes one or two generations for these to materialize.

The destruction they cause is well documented. This article by STEPHEN S. DITCHKOFF and STEPHEN S. DITCHKOFF explains:

Considerable information has been published
describing the impacts that feral hogs have on
native vegetation, native fauna, and ecosystems
in regions where hogs have been introduced.
Their unique method of obtaining food from
below the soil surface by rooting is 1 reason
their impacts on the ecosystem can be so far reaching.

When digging for plant or animal
material to consume, feral hogs turn over the
ground surface and displace large volumes
of soil. This method of foraging can lead to
impaired water quality, increased prevalence of
exotic plants, and injury to native plant species
(Cushman et al. 2004, Kaller and Kelso 2006,
Kaller et al. 2007).

They are dangerous. According to experts, the population in our area hasn't grown to the point that they have become territorial. Still, I have seen them bigger than 350 pounds. Even farm hogs can be dangerous. My mother-in-law was knocked down and rolled by a sow years ago.

They are killed. I do not know what happens to them after that. They have to be tested for disease. I suppose if someone was there, they could have one for meat. I am not fond of the meat. I know some people say it is good.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Feral Hog Population Diminished

Feral hogs once again reared their ugly heads in the upper Wildlife and Parks region of Clinton Lake. Only this time, USDA Animal Control Specialist, Chad Richardson and his staff were there.

First spotted in 2002, the wild pigs have been a continuing problem to private landowners and farmers leasing farmland in the Wildlife and Parks hunting area. I personally became concerned when I spotted a group walking across our pasture directly behind our home, an area where our grandchildren play.

The Lawrence Journal World reported the USDA helicopter flight on March 17, 2006. In June, 2006 the Kansas Legislature passed a bill banning public hunting of feral hogs. Finally, in a story on January 25, 2007, George Teagarden, Kansas Livestock Commission announced they would fly again in the spring of 2007 reported here. Although the problem continued to receive attention, I did not feel there was a united effort against the growing population. We continued to see them, often a sow leading a group of babies.

The USDA, Kansas Livestock Commission and Kansas Wildlife and Parks handling of the feral hog problem in our valley has received criticism. I, personally, felt the helicopter could not be completely effective over our valley because of the foliage. Others felt the ban on hunting did not make sense. Meanwhile, the farmers continued to lose crops. Two were hit on the road with damage to vehicles. It seemed the problem had no practical solution.

It all changed December of 2007. It was the Holidays, but Chad Richardson was on the job. He paid us a visit and indicated he was ready to work on the hog population.

Thanks to Richardson’s long hours and local cooperation, a coordinated program of trapping began. The ban on hunting kept the hogs localized in the valley. As a result, 60 hogs were caught in live traps the months of December and January. The helicopter flew again on February 4, 2008 with 23 taken at that time.

Although there may be feral hogs left in the valley, I applaud Richardson for his efforts in removing 83 of them. I, for one, will feel safer walking down the valley road this spring.