Feral Swine on Mark Twain National Forest

Mark Twain National Forest is fully committed to the eradication of feral swine in Missouri, and as a member of the Missouri Feral Hog Eradication Parnterhsip, has issued a closure order to make interagency feral swine trapping efforts as effective as possible.

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Forest Order

ORDER NO. 09-05-19-02

USDA Forest Service

Mark Twain National Forest

Feral Swine Hunting Prohibition

Pursuant to 16 U.S.C. 551 and 36 CFR 261.50(a), the following act is prohibited on all National Forest System lands on the Mark Twain National Forest. This Order is effective upon the date of signature until rescinded.

The hunting of feral swine. 36 CFR 261.58 (v).

Pursuant to 36 CFR 261.50(e), the following persons are exempt from this Order:

  1. Any Federal, State, or local officer, member of an organized rescue or fire fighting force in the performance of official duty.
  2. Persons with an agreement, special use permit or contract from the Forest Service authorizing feral swine elimination activities on the Mark Twain National Forest and their employees, sub-contractors, or agents are exempt from the prohibition listed above to the extent authorized by the special use permit or contract.
  3. Persons possessing a valid State deer or turkey hunting permit who are hunting deer or turkey in compliance with the permit.

This prohibition is in addition to the general prohibitions in 36 CFR Part 261, Subpart A.

A violation of this prohibition is punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, or imprisonment for not more than six months, or both.  16 U.S.C. 551 and 18 U.S.C. 3559, 3571, and 3581.

View a copy of signed forest order here.

 

Why this order is vital to the elimination of feral swine in Missouri

Feral Swine on the 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 (Bevins, Pedersen, Lutman, Gidlewski & Deliberto 2014). Presently, feral swine populations are well established in many southern and central Missouri counties, which include large portions of the Mark Twain National Forest (MTNF). They present serious implications to National Forest System (NFS) land managed by MTNF. Feral swine activities influence the distribution and abundance of native plants and animals, generally reducing recreational opportunities for the visiting public. Additionally, the potential for adverse impacts on recreational experiences may be greatest in wilderness areas specifically intended to preserve native systems with minimal unnatural disturbance.

Feral Swine Threaten Natural Resources and Adjacent Private Landowners

This generalist species upsets the ecological balance between native plant and wildlife species through predation, habitat destruction, resource competition, and disease transmission. Feral swine are a public nuisance and can be aggressive toward humans, livestock, and wildlife (Colorado State University 2012, Mayer 2013). Feral swine contribute greatly to the decline of Threatened and Endangered species (Pedersen et al. 2013) either directly via predation or indirectly through habitat destruction (McClure, Burdett, Farnsworth, Sweeney & Miller 2018).

Feral swine spend the majority 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 (Cook 1990). Soil quality affects water and air quality (Herrick 2000), which in turn affects every organism in the environment. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (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 (USDA APHIS-Wildlife Services Feral Swine Damage webpage 2019).

Feral swine are major environmental stressors on the MTNF because:

  • Feral swine forage heavily on acorns (West et al. 2009) 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 (Ditchkoff and Mayer 2009).
  • They irreversibly alter National Scenic Riverways, such as the pristine Current, Jacks Fork, and Eleven Point Rivers (Cunningham et al. 2001, Kaller et al. 2007).
  • 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 respectively (Kaller and Kelso 2006, Barrios-Garcia and Ballari 2012).

Threat to Domestic Livestock & Wildlife

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 endless numbers of endo and ectoparasites (“Diseases of Feral Swine,” n.d., Meng, Lindsay & Sriranganathan 2009, Miller et al. 2017).

Livestock producers express ongoing concern as these diseases negatively affect reproductive performance in herds resulting in spontaneous abortion, infertility, low milk production, and high mortality in neonatal livestock (“Feral Swine Disease,” n.d.). Presently, ASF, CSF, and FMD are considered eradicated in the United States, but accidental reintroduction into domestic livestock herds would likely devastate the agriculture industry. USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service - Wildlife Services (USDA WS) conducts ongoing feral swine disease surveillance to monitor prevalence and distribution.

How did Feral Swine Become a Problem on the Mark Twain National Forest?

The Missouri state legislature passed a closed range law in the 1969, which put an end to free-roaming livestock (Matthews & Mowrer n.d.). 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. A number of 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. They reach sexual maturity between 8-9 months of age and a single sow is capable of producing 4-12 piglets (Missouri average is 6) every 12-15 months (“Identifying & Reporting,” 2016). As a result of their high reproductive capacity, they quickly expanded into areas previously unoccupied by feral swine.

The State of Missouri has requested that the Forest Service join in the state-wide collaborative effort to eliminate feral swine (Letter from State Directors to USDA, April 2019). The trapping of feral swine has proven to be the most effective removal method, yielding the greatest number of sounders (large groups) versus other methods (i.e., hunter removal). Recreational hunting is not an effective means by which to control (i.e., eradicate feral hog numbers as hunting serves to maintain a sustainable population (Massei, Roy & Bunting 2011).

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

Elimination Efforts - the Partnership

Over the last 20 years, the population of feral swine in Missouri has increased exponentially (Witmer, Sanders & Taft 2003, Seward, VerCauteren, Witmer, & Engeman 2004). Feral swine are well established in 37 Missouri counties (Southeastern Cooperative 2018). Among the 37 counties, MTNF land exists in 29 of those counties. Feral swine inhabit virtually all of the approximate 1.5 million acres of MTNF.

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. Land management agencies used public recreational hunting as the primary means by which to eliminate feral swine in Missouri from the early 1990s until 2016.

Beginning in 2016, agencies involved in the Partnership significantly increased feral swine removal efforts and put in place hunting prohibitions consistent with the Statewide Strategic Plan for Feral Hog Elimination. This has resulted in the total elimination of feral swine from 116 watersheds totaling over 2.7 million acres previously occupied by feral swine across Missouri (Personal communication USDA WS staff 2019). The MTNF is working closely with MDC and USDA WS to eliminate feral swine in all watersheds on the MTNF.

Successful Methods of Elimination

Feral swine groups, known as sounders, have an active home range of approximately 1,000 acres (Hill & McLain 2016). 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. Once the swine become habituated to bait (usually corn) and visit the unset trap site routinely, the trap is then set to capture mode. At the moment the trip wire is activated by a sounder member, the trap quickly drops vertically capturing the entire sounder.

Trapping success has increased significantly due to the development and deployment of the Missouri Drop Trap design (Personal communication USDA WS staff 2019). Site specific trapping success is determined by comparing the number of swine observed loafing or feeding in and around the trap prior to the capture event versus the number of individuals trapped during the capture event. 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.

Recreational Hunting Interferes with Professional Feral swine Elimination 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 (Personal communication USDA WS staff 2019).

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). 

Beginning in 2016, when these hunting prohibitions went into effect, the number of watersheds occupied by feral swine in Missouri has dropped to 337 totaling approximately 8 million acres (personal communication USDA WS staff).

Recreational hunting of feral swine is ineffective because a single hunting event normally results in the dispatching of one or two individuals. The remaining sounder members scatter over the landscape locally and become more intolerant of human interaction (scent, etc.), which significantly decreases trapping efficiency (Fischer, et al. 2016, personal communication USDA WS staff). Sounder dispersal is compounded when dogs and ATVs are used to facilitate the hunt. Both tools greatly impede trapping efforts as it then requires additional time for the sounder to regroup and begin visiting bait sites again.

If feral hog hunting remains legal on the MTNF, there will always be economic incentive to release feral hogs onto the Forest. The message conveyed to the public is that there is value associated with feral swine existence. Where there is value assessed, there are opportunities to benefit financially. The public then engages in behaviors counterproductive to trapping such as releasing feral swine for hunting purposes and using dogs and ATVs to pursue swine. Individuals and commercial outfitters profit from guided feral swine hunts in Missouri.

Feral swine do not acknowledge boundaries and intentionally released individuals infiltrate private, state, and federally managed lands. Rapid range expansion in the feral swine population due to illegal releases of feral swine has been documented nationwide (Waithman et al. 1999, Barrios-Garcia and Ballari 2012, Bevins et al. 2014). When the incentive is eliminated, there is no motivation.

Dingell Act Procedure

Section 4103 of the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act (U.S. Congress 2019) requires the Forest Service, aside from emergencies, to consult with state fish and wildlife agencies before permanently, or temporarily, closing any NFS land to hunting, fishing, or recreational shooting.  Here, the State of Missouri has requested that the Forest Service prohibit feral swine hunting on the MTNF.

Issuance of the Forest Order responds to the request from the State of Missouri to implement policies that halt the spread of feral hogs and the resulting environmental damage by prohibiting hunting consistently across all Missouri lands. The State of Missouri feral swine elimination program bans all taking, pursuing, or releasing of feral swine on lands owned, leased, or managed by the state. The Forest Order will align the management of NFS lands in the MTNF with the elimination efforts of MDC and other federal agencies, including USDA WS.  

Section 4103 also requires that the Secretary of Agriculture, acting through the Chief of the Forest Service, provide public notice and comment before permanently or temporarily closing any NFS land to hunting, fishing, or recreational shooting. On Friday, May 19, 2019, the USDA Forest Service gave notice in the Federal Register of its intent to close the Mark Twain National Forest, Missouri to the hunting of feral swine in advance of the public comment period for the proposed closure.

Beginning on May 24, 2019, the USDA Forest Service solicited public comments for 60 days on the proposed Forest Order that would permanently prohibit hunting of feral swine by the public on the MTNF in support of interagency efforts to eliminate feral swine across all land ownership in the State of Missouri. In addition, the MTNF held two public listening sessions, one on June 18, 2019 in Rolla, Missouri, and one on June 20, 2019 in Fredericktown, Missouri. The solicitation for public comment, the proposed Forest Order, and the purpose and need for the Forest Order were made available on the Forest Service’s website http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/mtnf/feralswine. Section 4103(b)(2) requires the Secretary to respond to the comments received on the proposed Forest Order, explain how the Secretary resolved any significant issues raised by the comments, and show how the resolution led to the closure.

The MTNF received and reviewed 1,284 comment letters and forms on proposed Forest Order 09-05-19-02, permanently closing the Mark Twain National Forest to the hunting of feral swine.

Public comments received:

 

Reponses to Public Comments

The Forest Service’s responses to public comments concerning Forest Order 09-05-19-02 that are within the scope of the agency’s proposed decision are provided below:

1)  Justification for the feral swine hunting closure:

Many commenters asserted that trapping and aerial shooting alone are not sufficient to eliminate feral swine. Some commenters claimed that trapping results in “trap shy” feral swine that will never be trapped and will have to be hunted. Other commenters claimed that trapping and shooting from helicopters scatters sounders just as much as the hunters do. They believe that “every tool in the tool box” must be used in the elimination efforts.

Response:

Trapping and aerial shooting by MDC and USDA WS is the most effective strategy for eliminating feral swine. When MDC and USDA WS use other tactics such as dispatching feral swine over bait, night shooting using infrared or thermal equipment, and sharpshooting from fixed-wing or rotary aircraft, they are carefully coordinated with trapping efforts. For example, when MDC and USDA WS use helicopters to pursue feral swine, highly trained sharpshooters first aim for feral swine traveling at the rear of the sounder so that it is less likely the group will scatter and so that the individual swine will continue to run together in a uniform direction. Aerial operations are coordinated so as not to disrupt ground trapping efforts.

Adult feral swine can become trap shy if they escape from a trap post-capture, or if they witness a trapping event without being captured. If an animal has become trap shy, USDA WS elimination staff employ alternative methods to eliminate that individual. For example, staff will generally try to keep the animal on bait and conduct removal activity through sharpshooting at night. In certain scenarios, snares are another tool utilized for the capture of single individuals.

Historically, recreational hunting has proven ineffective at eliminating feral swine populations. Shooting one or two individuals at a time disperses sounders impeding the efforts of MDC and USDA WS to trap entire sounders. Other states recognize that the use of recreational hunting to control or suppress population growth among feral swine is ineffective.

Kentucky uses an adaptive science-based approach with professional feral swine elimination staff, which includes trapping, aerial gunning, and selective shooting. A study from Hawaii indicates that using hunting as a feral swine control method is “limited by the law of diminishing returns”. At some point the level of effort exceeds the benefits of hunting (Anderson & Stone 1992).

Studies in states such as Kansas, New York, North Carolina, and Arkansas indicate trapping, in the absence of hunting, is the most effective method of controlling feral swine populations. 

2)  Area of the closure:

Some commenters stated that the ban on hunting feral swine on the entire Mark Twain National Forest will not work because the area is too big or too remote for the Forest Service to trap feral swine in all areas, particularly in remote areas. Several commenters suggested closing only the areas where the feral swine elimination staff is trapping so that hunters do not interfere with the trapping efforts in the trap zone. 

Response:

The Forest Service and other partners in the Missouri Feral Hog Elimination Partnership are working together to obtain additional resources for feral swine elimination on the MTNF once the hunting closure is in effect. Field staff and aerial operations necessary to remove feral swine successfully from watersheds on the MTNF will be reallocated and concentrated in areas on MTNF and adjacent cooperative private lands where feral swine are distributed.

Closing only the parts of the MTNF where trapping is occurring is not a viable option. Recreational hunting would continue to push feral swine into areas where hunting is permitted, making it more difficult to trap there in the future and dispersing feral swine to areas once considered eradicated. Additionally, there have been multiple incidents where professional elimination staff have been harassed or threatened and their traps tampered with by feral swine hunters.

Feral swine elimination staff are reluctant to post signage in areas where they are actively trapping because of threats and intentional interference by feral swine hunters. In an effort not to waste time and resources, feral swine elimination staff have avoided working in areas, such as the MTNF, where interference is commonplace. Instead, staff have focused on private land where elimination efforts have been more effective with a lack of interference.

With the feral swine hunting Forest Order in place, the feral swine elimination staff will be able to work on MTNF lands year-round, significantly increasing effectiveness. Given the likelihood of intentional interference, partial closures of the MTNF would be ineffective.

3)  Duration of closure:

Several commenters suggested seasonal closures including: closing the Forest to feral swine hunting only from May through July but allowing hunting with dogs in the remaining months; reserving a special season for feral swine hunting; reserving a season for MDC and USDA WS trapping alone; opening the MTNF to hunting when the trapping efforts have reduced the feral swine population when only a few individuals remain; and allowing feral swine hunting during deer and turkey seasons.

Response:

When hunters utilize dogs and ATVs to actively pursue swine for recreational hunting, the sounders tend to scatter, and the hunting in effect educates the adults.

The State of Tennessee attempted to control feral swine populations by opening a statewide hunting season. They found that during this period of unlimited hunting, the feral swine population exploded due to intentional releases and interference with professional elimination efforts.

At Lake Wappapello in Missouri, USDA WS reported the elimination of hunting of feral swine with dogs resulted in an apparent 212% increase in the number of feral swine removed from the area using trapping methods. Allowing public hunting encourages illegal feral swine releases on private and public lands. 

Staff from MDC, USDA WS and other partner agencies trap year-round leaving no period of time to accommodate feral swine hunters and simultaneously reducing the chances of trapping interference. However, professional trapping efforts on the MTNF are reduced during the deer and turkey hunting seasons because it is difficult to trap successfully when there are thousands of hunters in the MTNF. An individual who might opportunistically take feral swine while lawfully hunting deer or turkey could do so without significantly interfering with professional trapping efforts. For these reasons, the Forest Order has been revised to include an exemption for persons possessing a valid State deer or turkey hunting permit who are hunting deer or turkey in compliance with the permit.

The MTNF Forest Supervisor has made a determination to implement Order 09-05-19-02, which permanently prohibits the hunting of feral swine on the Mark Twain National Forest with one revision to the list of exemptions. In addition to official law enforcement officers, rescue forces, authorized feral swine elimination officials, persons possessing a valid State deer or turkey hunting permit who are hunting deer or turkey in compliance with the permit will be exempt from Order 09-05-19-02.

 

Literature Cited

 

Additional Questions and Answers

Why did the USDA Forest Service need to close the Mark Twain National Forest to feral swine hunting

Over the last 20 years, the population of feral swine in Missouri has increased significantly, threatening natural resources and agriculture across the state. According to USDA Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service, feral swine cause approximately $1.5 billion in damages and elimination control costs in the United States each year, with at least $800 million of this estimate due to direct damage to agriculture.

The forest order is in response to the request form the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Missouri Department of Agriculture to make policies consistent across all public lands in Missouri. The order aligns the management of National Forest System lands with the elimination efforts of the Missouri Department of Conservation and other federal agencies, including USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

What is the Missouri Feral Hog Elimination Partnership and how does the USDA Forest Service work within that partnership?

Mark Twain National Forest is a member of the Missouri Feral Hog Elimination Partnership. The purpose of the partnership is the complete elimination of feral swine from Missouri. The forest closure order will meet the objectives in the statewide strategic plan, which include public outreach, preventing establishment of new populations, and obtaining population metrics. As part of the statewide strategy and implementation, the Forest Service and other partners provide funds, staff, and equipment to the extent possible. In the coming months, professional elimination efforts on the Mark Twain National Forest will ramp up.

How will the USDA Forest Service work with adjacent landowners and farmers trying to remove feral swine from their land?

The Forest Service and the other Missouri Feral Hog Elimination Partnership members encourage adjacent landowners to report feral swine that scatter or move from their land onto NFS land. Reports from the forest’s neighbors and the public help with elimination strategies. The Forest Service will regularly communicate with its partners and have an ongoing dialogue with neighbors about actions taking place on the forest.

Will allowing opportunistic take of feral hogs during deer and turkey hunting seasons interfere with trapping efforts on the Mark Twain National Forest?

The agencies focused on feral swine elimination historically have reduced feral swine trapping efforts during the deer and turkey hunting seasons because it is difficult to trap successfully when there are thousands of hunters in the MTNF. An individual who might opportunistically take feral swine while lawfully hunting deer or turkey could do so without significantly interfering with professional trapping efforts. For these reasons, the Forest Order has been revised to include an exemption for persons possessing a valid State deer or turkey hunting permit who are hunting deer or turkey in compliance with the permit.

When will the forest order go into effect and will the Forest Service reopen the Mark Twain to feral swine hunting in the future?

The forest order goes into effect immediately and the closure is indefinite.

Why can’t feral hog hunting be part of the solution year-round?

Hunting was the primary management tool used by land management agencies in MO from the early 1990s until 2016.  During that 25 year period, the population of feral hogs expanded from 2 watersheds in 1991 totaling approximately 59,000 acres to 383 watersheds in 2016 totaling over 9 million acres.  Hunting, especially hunting with dogs, scatters sounders, disrupts professional trapping efforts, and interferes with collaborative interagency efforts to eliminate feral swine in Missouri.  Many management agencies nationwide have determined that the approach of allowing recreational feral hog hunting is not an effective elimination tool.

Additionally, allowing hunting puts a value on feral hogs, which can incentivize some people to release feral hogs on private and public lands for hunting purposes.  Rapid range expansion due to intentional releases of feral hogs has been documented in Missouri.  If elimination of feral hogs in Missouri is to occur, releases of these animals must be stopped.  In 2016, the Missouri Department of Conservation and the LAD Foundation (largest private landowner in the state) recognized that hunting was not an effective feral hog elimination tool and prohibited the hunting of feral hogs on lands they own and lease. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Louis District followed suit with a feral hog hunting prohibition on their lands in 2017.  Since 2016, when these hunting prohibitions went into effect, the number of watersheds occupied by feral hogs in Missouri has dropped to 337 totaling approximately 8 million acres—a testament to the effectiveness of professional feral hog elimination efforts.

Why not use all available techniques or tools to eliminate feral hogs?

Shooting in various forms, including over bait, hunting with dogs, night shooting using infrared or thermal technologies, and from fixed-wing or rotary aircraft are all common feral hog control techniques.  However, recreational hunting alone has proven ineffective at eliminating populations of feral hogs in many circumstances. Allowing recreational hunting adds value to feral hogs, which incentivizes illegal releases of feral hogs on private and public lands.  This invasive pest needs to be completely eliminated from the Missouri landscape.  Additionally, shooting one or two animals at a time can disrupt the professional elimination efforts of trapping entire sounders (herds of feral hogs).

The inability of recreational hunting to control or suppress population growth among feral hogs led Illinois, Tennessee and Kentucky to use an adaptive science-based approach, which includes trapping, aerial gunning, and selective shooting.  A study from Hawaii indicated that hunting as a method is limited by the law of diminishing returns.  Studies in states such as Kansas, New York, North Carolina, and Arkansas indicate trapping is the most effective method of controllingferal hog populations.

Isn’t the Mark Twain National Forest too big and remote to use interagency efforts exclusively (without hunting)?

The Missouri Feral Hog Elimination Partnership is taking a strategic and incremental approach, clearing watersheds of feral hogs one at a time across the landscape.  Since 2016, efforts associated with the Statewide Strategic Plan for Feral Hog Elimination in Missouri have resulted in the total elimination of feral hogs from 116 watersheds totaling over 2.7 million acres previously occupied by feral hogs.  Some of the watersheds where feral hogs have been eliminated fall within the Mark Twain National Forest (MTNF), which is about 1.6 million acres in size.  Resources (i.e., field staff and aerial operations) associated with the successful removal of feral hogs from watersheds will be reallocated and concentrated in areas on MTNF lands and adjacent cooperative private lands where feral hogs are distributed.

Interference from unregulated hunting, especially from hunters using dogs, prevents feral hog elimination staff from working on most MTNF lands outside of July and August (when it’s generally too hot to run dogs).  Feral hog elimination staff can’t waste time and resources, so they are forced to avoid working in areas where interference occurs. Instead, staff focus on private land where elimination efforts can be more effective. With the feral hog unting closure order in place, professional feral hog elimination staff will be able to work on MTNF lands year-round, significantly increasing effectiveness.  Additionally, the USDA Forest Service, Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), USDA APHIS Wildlife Services, and other partners are working together to obtain additional resources to put toward feral hog elimination on the MTNF once the hunting closure is in effect.

Explain why hunting activities scatter sounders (herds of feral hogs) while trapping or shooting 
from helicopters does not?

A feral hog trap does nothing to scare or scatter sounders—it sits passively in the forest and provides easily accessible food for feral hogs until the trip wire is activated to drop the trap and capture the entire sounder.  When helicopters are used to pursue feral hogs, highly trained sharpshooters begin shooting feral hogs running at the back of sounder first, so it is less likely the group will scatter rather than continue to run together in the same direction.  In addition, helicopter operations are coordinated so they don’t impact feral hog trapping efforts on the ground.

Hunting activity, particularly utilizing dogs and ATVs, actively pursues sounders causing the group to scatter and disperse into new areas, form additional groups and become more wary of humans.  At Lake Wappapello in Missouri, USDA APHIS Wildlife Services reported the elimination of hunting of feral hogs with dogs resulted in an apparent 212% increase in the number of feral hogs removed from the area using trapping.  The State of Tennessee attempted to control feral hog populations using no bag limits on hunting.  They found that during this period of nlimited hunting the wild hog population expanded the most.

Do adult hogs become trap shy and what is the strategy for eliminating these hogs?

Adult feral hogs only become trap shy if they escape from a trap after capture, or if they witness a trapping event without being captured. Trap capture efficiency (i.e., the number of hogs captured with respect to the number of hogs observed in the vicinity of a trap during a capture event) has approximately doubled since the development and deployment of the Missouri Drop Trap. According to USDA APHIS Wildlife Services, the capture efficiency for this trap generally ranges from 90-100% as is evident by the number of hogs captured versus the number of hogs observed in trail camera images prior to the capture event. If an animal has become trap shy, feral hog elimination personnel will use the most efficient methods that do not interfere with other trapping efforts to eliminate that animal. For example, personnel will generally try to keep the animal on bait and conduct removal activity through sharpshooting at night. Snares are used selectively depending on conditions, such as when hogs are damaging agricultural crops.

Why would a bounty system not lead to eradication?

Allowing any activities that may incentivize illegal releases of feral hogs is counterproductive to elimination. Additionally, bounties have been used on a variety of species of wildlife and have never been proven to be effective in eliminating the species. For example, in response to increasing negative impacts on flora, fauna, and military training activities and equipment, Fort Benning began offering a bounty on pigs in June 2007 to reduce the population and eventually eradicate wild pigs from the installation. To gauge the effectiveness of the bounty program, a study was conducted to assess the population response of feral hogs within 2 study areas on the installation from June 2007 to February 2008. The study (Effectiveness of a Bounty Program for Reducing Wild Pig Densities) results indicated that the wild pig population was increasing during the period when the bounty program was in effect.

What carcass disposal method is being used and why?

Due to the logistics of removing a large number of feral hogs, their carcasses are scattered across the landscape to decompose and provide nutrients back into the ecosystem in which they lived. Appendix H of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prepared by USDA APHIS Wildlife Services discusses the advantages and disadvantages of different way to dispose of feral hog carcasses.

Is feral hog meat safe to handle and eat?

There are more than 30 viral and bacterial diseases and nearly 40 parasites that humans, pets, livestock and wildlife can get from feral hogs. Most of these diseases make people sick when they eat undercooked meat. Diseases such as hepatitis E, swine brucellosis, pseudorabies, tularemia, tuberculosis, leptospirosis and trichinellosis are of grave concern to humans who may come in contact with feral hogs. Feral hogs can act as reservoirs for many important infectious diseases in domestic animals, such as classical swine fever, African swine fever, pseudorabies, brucellosis, trichinellosis, and porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS).

Are there plans to increase staffing and resources to intensify feral hog elimination efforts?

Yes. There are commitments from USDA APHIS Wildlife Services, Missouri Department of Conservation, and other partners to increase resources focused on feral hog elimination efforts on and around the Mark Twain National Forest once the feral hog hunting prohibition is in place. In addition, the USDA APHIS National Feral Swine Damage Management Program has committed an additional two weeks of funding to support aerial gunning efforts in Missouri, with the intent to provide additional feral hog elimination staff. The Mark Twain National Forest is committed to establishing an Incident Command System to lead the Missouri Feral Hog Elimination Partnership’s efforts in and around the Forest.

What type of education campaign will be used along with the ban?

The Missouri Feral Hog Elimination Partnership will increase its outreach through talks, radio and television spots informational booths, workshops, etc. when invited or at other public events to provide information on feral hog elimination efforts in Missouri. Currently, some educational information is available on the MDC and APHIS websites.





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