MISSOURI (KFVS) - The Missouri Department of Conservation wildlife biologists say a total of 955 feral hogs have been trapped by them, partner agencies and private landowners in the first three months of 2016.
They say this is a 23 percent increase compared to the first quarter of 2015, when 777 hogs were trapped.
"We see this as very successful, although there are more hogs where those came from," said MDC Wildlife Management Coordinator Alan Leary. "The key to eradicating these destructive, invasive, pests is cooperation with private landowners and partners in efforts to report hog sightings, continue trapping and deter hog hunting."
Leary, who leads the department's feral hog eradication efforts, said while hunting is effective for managing wildlife populations, feral hogs are not wildlife and MDC will not manage them. The goal is to eradicate them.
He added that killing feral hogs for sport hinders efforts to eradicate them for a few reasons.
"Some hunters intentionally release feral hogs in new areas to establish populations to hunt," Leary said. "And hunters usually only shoot one or two hogs out of a group, while the rest scatter across the landscape and become more difficult to catch. Additionally, feral hogs have such a high reproductive rate that an entire group, called a sounder, must be removed at the same time for eradication efforts to be successful."
Because of that high reproductive rate, biologists say more than 70 percent of a feral hog population has to be removed annually to decrease populations.
Leary said the first-quarter results for 2016 show that trapping is the correct method for eradicating feral hogs. Most hogs were trapped in southern Missouri, where the highest density of hogs occurs.
Earlier in 2016, MDC partnered with other conservation groups, agriculture organizations and the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation to provide the state's feral hog strike team with more trapping equipment to be used by MDC for trapping efforts on private and public land, and to fund public education efforts on the dangers of feral hogs.
According to the MDC, feral hogs are a serious threat to fish, forests and wildlife, as well s agriculture resources. They say feral hogs have expanded their range in the U.S. from 17 to 38 states over the past 30 years. Their populations grow rapidly because feral hogs can breed any time of year and produce two litters of one to seven piglets every 12 to 15 months.
The MDC also said feral hogs are known to carry diseases such as swine brucellosis, pseudorabies, trichinosis and leptospirosis, which are a threat to Missouri agriculture and human health.
To report feral hog sightings or damage, you can call 573-522-4115, ext. 3296, or you can click here.