Feral hogs

Mark Twain National Forest is fully committed to eliminating feral swine in Missouri, and as a member of the Missouri Feral Hog Elimination Partnership, has issued a Forest Order to support interagency feral swine trapping efforts.

The Forest works closely with Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), USDA APHIS Wildlife Services, and many other agencies, organizations, and private landowners to eliminate feral hogs from Missouri.

To learn more about feral hogs in Missouri visit MDC’s website.

 

Feral swine within Mark Twain National Forest

Feral swine are an invasive, destructive, non-native species that have expanded their geographic range from 17 to 38 states over the past 30 years Presently, feral swine populations are well established in many southern and central Missouri counties, which include large portions of the Forest.  Feral swine negatively affect the distribution and abundance of native plants and animals and they can reduce recreational opportunities for the visiting public if left unchecked.  

Releasing hogs is illegal. If you see someone releasing feral hogs on the Forest or elsewhere, report violators to your local MDC conservation agent or Forest Service office.

When hunters shoot feral hogs, it complicates efforts to remove these pests. Hogs are social animals that travel in groups called sounders. Shooting one or two hogs scatters the sounder and makes trapping efforts aimed at catching the entire group at once more difficult, because hogs become trap-shy and more wary of baited sites. With their high reproductive rate, removing one or two hogs does not help to reduce populations. Anyone who observes a feral hog or damage caused by feral hogs should report it to the Conservation Department rather than shooting the animal so we can work together towards eradication.

Hunting feral hogs is not allowed within Mark Twain National Forest

In December of 2019, Mark Twain National Forest put a Forest Order in place banning the hunting of feral hogs on the Forest, supporting the interagency elimination strategy.

The order does make the exception of allowing people possessing a valid State deer or turkey hunting permit (who are hunting deer or turkey in compliance with the permit) to shoot and take a feral hog if encountered.

Hunting hogs on other lands is strongly discouraged. Instead, report feral hog sightings and damage to:

MDC, USDA APHIS Wildlife Services, and the Forest Service, along with other partners and hundreds of private landowners, are working to eradicate feral hogs in Missouri.

Feral swine are a threat to the Forest and Missouri

This generalist species upsets the ecological balance between native plants and wildlife by eating almost anything, causing habitat destruction and outcompeting native animals for food. They also can transmit diseases to other animals, wild and domestic.   Feral swine are a public nuisance and can be aggressive toward humans, livestock, and wildlife. 

  • For all these reasons, feral swine also contribute greatly to the decline of Threatened and Endangered species.
  • Feral swine spend most of their time rooting and wallowing, which contributes to soil erosion, soil compaction, loss of soil structure, reduced water quality, and damage to agricultural crops and hay fields
  • Soil quality affects water and air quality, which in turn affects every organism in the environment.
  • USDA estimates that the costs of the damage caused by and for controlling feral swine are approximately $1.5 billion each year, with at least $800 million of this estimate due to direct damage to agriculture

Feral swine are major environmental stressors on the Forest because:

  • Feral swine forage heavily on acorns and compete with native species, such as deer, turkey, elk, and bear for this vital seasonal resource.
  • Feral swine feed on native reptiles, amphibians, small mammals (including deer fawns), and the eggs and young of ground-nesting birds.
  • They irreversibly alter National Scenic Riverways, such as the pristine Current, Jacks Fork, and Eleven Point Rivers.
  • Their rooting and wallowing behaviors destroy sensitive natural areas such as glades, fens, and springs while thwarting efforts to conserve threatened and endangered insect and plant species such as Hine’s emerald dragonfly and Mead’s milkweed.

Feral swine serve as disease vectors that threaten livestock and wildlife health. Such diseases include:

  • classical swine fever (CSF),
  • African swine fever (ASF),
  • swine brucellosis (SB),
  • pseudorabies (PRV),
  • trichinosis,
  • porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS),
  • porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED),
  • swine influenza A,
  • tularemia,
  • hepatitis E (HEV),
  • bovine TB,
  • anthrax,
  • salmonella,
  • West Nile virus,
  • leptospirosis,
  • pathogenic E. coli,
  • foot and mouth disease (FMD),
  • porcine circovirus,
  • toxoplasmosis,
  • vesicular stomatitis (VSV)
  • and they carry many endo- and ectoparasites

How did the feral swine problem begin?

The Missouri state legislature passed a closed range law in the 1969, which put an end to free-roaming livestock.  Recreational feral swine hunting gained popularity in the 1990s, when special interest groups began rearing and promoting European wild boar as an alternative food source and a “new” game species. Several feral swine escaped captive facilities or were intentionally released on public land in order to establish hunting populations. During this period, feral swine hunting was not only permitted but encouraged.

Feral swine are highly adaptable and prolific breeders.  As a result of their high reproductive capacity, they quickly expanded into areas previously unoccupied by feral swine.

Trapping of feral swine has proven to be the most effective removal method, yielding the greatest number of sounders (large groups) versus other methods.

Eliminating feral hogs in Missouri, including on Mark Twain National Forest, requires interagency coordination across the Missouri landscape. The Forest Order permanently prohibiting hunting of feral hogs on the Forest aligns the Forest with the Missouri Feral Hog Elimination Partnership’s mission.

Elimination Efforts - the Partnership

The MTNF is an active member of the Missouri Feral Hog Elimination Partnership (the Partnership)  and its members include the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA), Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), USDA APHIS Veterinary Services (USDA VS), Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MO DNR), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Ozark National Scenic Riverways (ONSR) of the National Park Service (NPS), Fort Leonard Wood (FLW) – Natural Resource Branch, and USDA APHIS Wildlife Services (USDA WS).

The Partnership’s mission is to eradicate feral swine in Missouri by implementing the Statewide Strategic Plan for Feral Hog Elimination (2017). The Partnership is taking a strategic incremental approach, clearing each watershed inhabited by feral swine one at a time.

Successful Methods of Elimination

Trapping is the most effective and efficient method of removal in steep, rugged, forested Missouri terrain. Partnership agencies actively removing feral swine deploy large traps that capture entire sounders at once. Traps are placed in areas with signs indicating feral hog presence and a location deemed most attractive to swine in terms of resources, such as water, food, and shelter and their natural movement pattern.

Trapping success has increased significantly due to the development and deployment of the Missouri Drop Trap design.  Capture efficiency for the Missouri Drop Trap ranges anywhere from 90 to 100%.

In addition to trapping, agencies and organizations in the Partnership utilize an integrated approach to eradication including dispatching over bait, night shooting using infrared or thermal equipment, and sharpshooting from a fixed-wing or rotary aircraft. These methods are quite effective when used in conjunction with trapping efforts.

The plan to use public recreational hunting as a means by which to manage (not eradicate) feral swine in the 1990s failed as their populations expanded from 2 watersheds in 1991, totaling approximately 59,000 acres, to 383 watersheds in 2016 totaling over 9 million acres.

In 2016, MDC and the L-A-D Foundation, the largest private landowner in the state, recognized that recreational hunting was not an effective feral swine elimination tool and prohibited the hunting on lands they own and lease (MDC Feral Hog webpage). The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers followed suit with a feral swine hunting prohibition on its lands in 2017 (USACE news release 2017). Mark Twain National Forest followed suit in 2019.

Beginning in 2016, when these hunting prohibitions went into effect, the number of watersheds occupied by feral swine in Missouri began dropping, and the efforts of the combined elimination effort with agencies and landowners working together will continue to clear feral hogs from the landscape.





https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/mtnf/landmanagement/?cid=FSEPRD629017