An ongoing and growing problem in Missouri as well as much of the rest of the country is feral hogs. These animals are prolific breeders, consume anything and everything in their path, and pose a great danger to whitetail hunters and hunting dogs alike. The chances of you encountering a wild hog in the woods absolutely does exist, and for such an encounter you should be prepared as hogs can cause severe injuries with their razor sharp tusks in a moment's notice.
Photo: TX Farm Bureau
The wild hog problem as we know it in Missouri at present is a man-made one. Though there were feral hogs in Missouri at one time, their numbers were kept low and maintained by residents. Over time, however, hog hunting grew in popularity, creating a demand for wild hogs. As a result, European wild boars were introduced in controlled environments such as licensed hunting areas. In time these animals did what they do best, showcasing their destructive skills and escaping from containment pens. Others may have been released, but regardless of how they became free, they have since grown in numbers, unleashing a destructive force on the lands of Missouri that must be stopped.
The problem with eradicating wild hogs is simply that in many ways they have superior senses to humans. They can both hear and smell us in advance of our arrival, making it easy for them to slip away before we are even able to detect them. Because of this, we need to pay particular attention to our surroundings in order to get a clue as to where they are. You may not see a feral hog, but you will see sings of them. The main telltale indicator of a wild hog population includes rooted ground. It is rooting such as this that also causes soil to erode and water quality to become compromised. Hog damaged ground will appear tilled and is a result of hogs seeking delicious morsels to eat, but when food underground is unavailable, they will not hesitate to look elsewhere, consuming everything up to and including whitetail fawns.
Photo: Wild Boar in America
In addition to superior senses, a big reason hog numbers are growing so fast is due to prolific breeding. They are able to breed upon reaching sexual maturity as early as six months of age in some cases. Once the breeding starts, however, you can expect two litters annually of 3-8 piglets. At a young age, piglets are most vulnerable to predation, but as they grow that becomes far less of a problem as few predators are a match for adult feral hogs. The biggest predator wild hogs currently have are humans on a mission to diminish their numbers.
A big reason to avoid feral hogs is because they carry disease (swine brucellosis, pseudorabies, trichinosis, leptospirosis) which can be transmitted to humans and other animals. Aside from disease transmission, hogs are able to inflict serious injury to hunters by gouging with sharp tusks. Though they will typically avoid human contact, is it possible that they will charge, especially mothers with young piglets. These charges can sometimes be avoided by a quick step out of their path at the last moment and safety can be sought in trees until the threat has passed. Until their population is reduced, avoidance many very well be the best tool in our arsenal.
Photo: National Park Service
In order to get the feral hog population under control in Missouri, they are being shot and/or trapped by federal and state employees at this time. Though MDOC discourages hunting specifically for feral hogs, they do request that sighting and locations be reported to them at 573-522-4115 extension 3296. Additionally, if you see or know of someone releasing hogs, which is illegal, they ask that those activities be reported via Operation Game Thief at 800-392-1111. If you wish to hunt them yourself, stay tuned to the MDOC website as regulations are being looked into and revisions could be released soon.
Have you encountered a wild boar in your Missouri hunting travels? Are they wreaking havoc on your property? Let us know how they've impacted you in the comments.