New MTNF regulations aimed at eliminating invasive feral hogs
Missourians will no longer be able to hunt feral hogs freely on public land within the Mark Twain National Forest (MTNF). The announcement was made earlier this month by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) as the agency continues its work to eliminate the invasive species from the state. Feral hog hunting on private land is not affected by the new rule.
Although the new regulations ban hog hunting within the MTNF, hunters are allowed to take hogs in “opportunistic circumstances,” meaning when hunters who possess unfilled turkey or deer tags see a hog while they are hunting for the other species.
While the regulations are effective immediately in MTNF, the change will not be in place for the 2019-2020 archery season, which continues through Jan. 15, 2020, or the 2019 alternative methods season, which runs Dec. 28 through Jan. 7, 2020. The proposal will have to go through the state’s regulatory process, which includes a formal public comment period on the rule-making.
Most public land agencies closed feral hog hunting in 2016, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation, due to the rise in hog populations blamed on recreational hunting practices.
Although it might seem counterintuitive to ban hunting of feral hogs in order to reduce their numbers, the MTNF and MDC say recreational hunting of feral hogs causes the hogs to disperse, while trapping methods have proven to be much more successful in elimination efforts.
“Feral hogs became established in southern Missouri when some individuals released them for hunting. Between natural reproduction and illegal releases, the feral hog population exploded in southern Missouri. They now occur in more than 30 Missouri counties,” an MDC press release says. “Recreational hunting of feral hogs complicates efforts to trap and eliminator them. Hunting activities, particularly hunting with dogs, scatters the sounder and makes trapping efforts aimed at catching the entire group very difficult because hogs become trap-shy and wary of baited sites. This pattern has been repeated in several states when the combination of recreational hunting and trapping programs has resulted in a larger feral hog population.”
According to MDC, a group of 10 feral hogs can destroy 10 to 20 acres overnight, including crops, causing financial burdens for landowners and agricultural producers. Feral hogs are also known to carry diseases such as swine brucellosis, pseudorabies, trichinosis, PRRS and leptospirosis. The reintroduction of these diseases into domestic population would be devastating to the agriculture industry.
With the USFS announcement, the Missouri Feral Hog Elimination Partnership has developed an operational plan that will provide additional staff and resources on private and public land around MNTF.
Currently, the Missouri Conservation Commission is providing $1.8 million annually to USDA for trapping services, and MDC staff contribute more than 25,000 hours annually toward elimination efforts on private and public land. Other agencies are contributing staff and resources and will be stepping up their efforts to fight the battle against feral hogs. The new plan will reassign staff from across the state to help with feral hog removal efforts in southern Missouri.