To bottom-line it, there’s nothing desirable, valuable, or appealing about feral hogs in Missouri. They are problematic, invasive animals that must be eliminated from the state. The sooner they’re completely gone from our state – the better it will be for all Missourians.

Missouri’s fight to eliminate feral hogs is a battle that can’t be lost – it’s that simple.

The harm they do to crop fields and the disease threats they pose to domestic hog herds could have devastating economic effects on agriculture across the state. The havoc their destructive habits wreak on wildlife habitats could have damaging effects on a number of wildlife species.

To bottom-line it, there’s nothing desirable, valuable, or appealing about feral hogs in Missouri. They are problematic, invasive animals that must be eliminated from the state. The sooner they’re completely gone from our state – the better it will be for all Missourians.

Feral hogs are not wildlife. Their genetic history is often mixed and muddled but their designation of being “feral” – a designation used for free-ranging animals descended from domestic stock – makes it clear they are not wildlife. Feral hogs can multiply quickly. Sows can reproduce at six months of age. A sow typically has two litters each year consisting of 4-10 pigs.

The reasons they don’t belong on Missouri’s landscape are many.

On the agricultural side, the rooting and wallowing of a “sounder” (group) of feral swine can destroy acres of pasture, hayfields and row crops. They also damage orchards, raid livestock feeders and foul water supplies.

But the trouble doesn’t stop with crop damage. Missouri Department of Agriculture sources state feral hogs are also known to carry diseases such as swine brucellosis, pseudo-rabies, leptospirosis, swine fever, and foot-and-mouth disease. Once these diseases get introduced into a domestic group of pigs, the only solution is often the complete destruction of a farm’s entire hog population – a choice that is usually the death of a hog operator’s chance for profit. 

The effects of feral hogs on wildlife habitats can be equally disastrous. They destroy crucial food sources, prey on eggs of ground-nesting birds such as turkey and quail and can also kill fawns and the young of other wildlife species. Their wallowing in streams and at springs can foul aquatic habitats that are at the site of the disturbance and downstream from it, as well.

The high stakes involved in Missouri’s battle against feral hogs is why the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), Missouri Department of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service, and the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) are pooling their efforts to eliminate feral hogs from the state. It’s why MDC banned the hunting of feral hogs on conservation areas in 2016. It’s why the U.S. Forest Service announced it was prohibiting the hunting of feral hogs on public land in the Mark Twain National Forest in December.

The reasons for these bans is so that concentrated trapping efforts can take place. Concentrated trapping that eliminate entire groups of hogs is much more effective at eradication than individual shooting efforts that kill a few hogs and scatter the rest. It’s important to emphasize these are hog trapping - not hog hunting – efforts. Missourians hunt wildlife game species and, as stated above, feral hogs aren’t wildlife. Also, “hunting” is an activity that involves a limited harvest so the overall population can be sustained for future recreational activity. Missouri’s feral hog trapping efforts are about eliminating these troublesome creatures, not sustaining them.

Think of this in terms of mice and rats. You don’t go into a closet, grain bin or other site known to have mice or rats with the hopes of killing a few and scattering the rest. You stealthily set traps for these pests with the goal of eliminating all of them.

Hunting is also about providing meat to the dinner table which is another reason this term doesn’t apply to Missouri’s feral hog elimination efforts. It’s true Internet searches can find several ways to “prepare” feral hog meat, but those same on-line quests will reveal even more warnings from state and federal health agencies about the dangers of consuming that same feral hog meat because of the diseases they’re known to carry.

As if trapping these wily animals wasn’t difficult enough, illegal activities of some people have added a disturbing aspect to Missouri’s fight against feral hogs. The narrative once told about feral hogs – that they are descendants of free-range livestock that roamed rural areas prior to when the state enacted fencing laws – is a story that’s obsolete in 21st century Missouri. The feral hogs running free in the state today are the products of human-instigated illegal releases of feral swine into the wild. In some cases, MDC and USDA traps set to catch feral hogs have been vandalized. These unlawful actions are fueled by misinformation and a total lack of care for the damage feral hogs will do to the environment and farms around the release site. It’s gotten to the point many farmers are hesitant to publicize feral hog elimination efforts on their land in fear it could lead to their properties being targeted for illegal releases in the future.

Farmers and landowners are reminded that all feral hog sightings, reports of illegal releases of feral hogs, and any type of tampering with trapping efforts can be reported to mdc.mo.gov/feralhog or by calling 573-522-4115, ext. 3296. Illegal feral hog activities can also be reported to MDC’s Operation Game Thief Hotline, 1-800-392-1111. All information is kept in strict confidence.

Francis Skalicky is the media specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Southwest Region. For more information about conservation issues, call 417-895-6880.