Hog hunting banned on MDC-owned lands
By PAUL DAVIS
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- To nobody's surprise, Missouri's Conservation Commission on Friday approved a ban on hunting feral hogs on lands owned, leased or managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation, effective Sept. 30.
The ban comes after MDC officials said they considered input during a mandatory public comment period in May and is a "direct result of some misguided individuals disrupting trapping efforts by MDC staff," according to Wildlife Division chief Jason Sumners.
Sumners specifically was referencing several occasions when hunters found traps set by MDC staff and hunted next to them, effectively squashing those trapping efforts.
The ban also marks a 180-degree change in department stance on hog hunting. When the issue of feral hogs came to light in Missouri more than a decade ago, officials recommended hunters shoot hogs on site to eliminate them. That's no longer the case, with trapping being a more efficient removal tool.
The move, as expected, is not sitting well with many hunters. While efforts to contact local hog hunters were unsuccessful, online comments were plentiful.
"Very, very bad decision," said one commentator on Facebook. "Banning will only help their population to grow," said another.
"The public comments were not considered, that is obvious," voiced one person, while another said "MDC is making a mistake, which will ultimately cost the taxpayers."
The Department of Conservation disagrees, and says the feral hog population, which competes directly with native wildlife, destroys property and crops and carries diseases, must be eliminated using the most effective method.
"Hunting is a great tool to manage populations of wildlife, but we don't want to manage the feral hog population," Sumners emphasized. "We want to eliminate it.
"Feral hogs travel in large groups, and because of their high reproductive rate, the entire group needs to be removed at once, otherwise the remaining hogs quickly replace those that were removed and no progress is made toward eliminating the entire population.
"Hunters only take one or two hogs from the group, and the rest scatter to new areas and become smarter and more difficult to remove."
If that wasn't a big enough problem, Sumners said, there's also a darker side of hunting feral hogs.
"We've seen in other states, like Tennessee, that hunting is not effective in eliminating feral hogs," he said. "In fact, it provides an incentive for folks to illegally release more on to the landscape to hunt. "
Such illegal releases are suspected to be the primary reason Missouri developed feral hog populations.
Despite the growing popularity of feral-hog hunting, Sumners said, trapping is much more effective in removing large numbers of hogs.
"Trapping efforts work to gather the sounder (group of hogs) to a remotely-detonated trap over several weeks to remove the entire group at once, making a much greater impact on the population to make eradication possible," he said.
Despite the notion by many of the ban affecting all of Missouri, Sumners reiterated it only applies on MDC lands or those they lease. People who hunt hogs in the Mark Twain National Forest, which is managed by the U.S. Forest Service, are not affected by the ban. Hunters on private lands also would not be affected.
According to Sumners, MDC owns nearly 1,000 conservation areas around the state, about 30 of which have populations of feral hogs. Those primarily are in the southern-tier counties.