It’s Like A Weed with Legs
Did you know that a feral hog is the same animal as the one shown at the county fair 4H show? It just needs a shave and little taming and it might be grand champion! The Latin name for the domestic hog, Sus scrofa is the same for the European wild boar or feral hog often associated with the dangerous, hairy, tusked beast pursued by hunters.
The issue of feral hogs in Kansas is not one that is in the news very often, good thing. The fact that agriculture damage from feral hogs still approaches $250,000 annually, from less than 1000 hogs statewide, bad thing.
Except for some isolated spots near the eastern and southern borders, and where illegal hunting operations release hogs, Kansas has done a good job of controlling the spread of feral swine in the state. However, it might be hard to convince a landowner experiencing damage from a group of hogs. It also might be hard to explain to someone who contracts an illness carried by feral swine.
Ask any Texas landowner about feral swine and you’re likely to get an even less friendly answer. Hogs have now invaded every county in Texas and the estimates I have read are upwards of $52 million annually to crops, native pastures and improved pastures. That estimate doesn’t include the damages that are now being inflicted upon lawns, flower beds and young trees by porkers invading urban landscapes. Only the sod growers are seeing benefit to this new habitat intrusion.
I recently heard one expert refer to feral swine as a weed with legs!
Kansas does not classify feral swine as wildlife or a game species, so hunting feral hogs for sport is illegal. That doesn’t mean landowners can’t kill hogs on their own property. They can even get free permits for others to shoot the hogs, they just can’t profit from it. The point is to discourage a hunting industry, prevent the intentional release of hogs for sport and limit the spread of feral swine.
Kansas is the only state with hogs that has taken this approach. In some respects it must be working because other states are now starting to adopt the same approach.
The United States Department of Agriculture has a group lined up to combat this species and its spread. These guys are trapping, snaring, aerial gunning and night shooting to assist landowners in eradicating these harmful hogs. But it takes more than just their program to really keep the pigs from spreading.
Enforcement of Kansas law against those who knowingly release hogs for profit is sorely lacking. Just a few of these operations are creating the majority of the problems. Local law enforcement, county attorneys and county commissions need to step up and assist in the enforcement of existing law.
Just because the penalties for violations are monetary fines, doesn’t mean local enforcement and prosecution should ignore the problem or pleas for help from adjoining landowners. Now is the time for local government officials to understand the property destruction, loss of tax-base and the health risks from the spread of feral swine.