MISSOURI (KFVS) - The Missouri Department of Conservation tallied feral hog numbers for 2016.
They report they removed a total of 5,358 feral hogs in 2016. The previous year, in 2015, 3,649 feral hogs were removed.
The increase is attributed to MDC's "Report, don't shoot" message which encourages trapping, banning hog hunting on conservation areas and a public awareness campaign.
Southeast Missouri trapped 2,941 feral hogs, which is where the highest density of feral hogs occurs. The Ozark region trapped 1,293 while the southwest region trapped 1,0006 hogs. St. Louis, Central and Kansas City regions all trapped fewer than 100 feral hogs each.
Alan Leary, MDC's Wildlife Management Coordinator and leader of the Department's feral hog eradication efforts said although the goal is to eradicate feral hogs in the state, a more immediate goal is to keep the feral hog population from spreading to those northern regions.
"We made significant progress in 2016," said 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 and the illegal release of hogs."
While hunting is a very effective tool for managing populations of wildlife, the MDC said feral hogs are not wildlife and the goal is to remove them.
According to the MDC, killing feral hogs for sport hinders efforts to eradicate them for several reasons.
"Some hunters intentionally release feral hogs in new areas to establish populations to hunt and hunters usually only shoot one or two hogs out of the group, while the rest scatter across the landscape and become more difficult to catch," Leary said. "Hunting actually compounds the problem."
While trapping is effective for eradicating feral hogs, the MDC says feral hogs are great at noticing details that tip them off to avoid a trapping area. In winter, when the trees are bare, the MDC occasionally uses aerial gunning.
"It's vital we continue our efforts and get the feral hog population under control before it spreads any further," Leary said.
According to the MDC, economic losses resulting from feral hog damage in the U.S. is estimated at greater than $1.5 billion per year.
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. Feral hogs are also known to carry diseases such as swine brucellosis, pseudorabies, trichinosis and leptospirosis, which are a threat to Missouri agriculture and human health.
You can click here for more information from the MDC on feral hogs.