The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Ag

June 29, 2013

Feral hogs cause damage

ENID, Okla. — Feral hogs have been a growing problem in rural Oklahoma for the past several years.

Dan Ripley, owner of Ripley Farms, has experienced this problem first-hand. He noticed hog trouble near the end and around the edges of his fields about five years ago. Since then, the problem has escalated to hundreds of wild hogs.

“They come in at night and just massacre the fields,” Ripley said.

There are several methods to get rid of feral hogs, but Ripley has not found any that are 100 percent effective. He has tried hunting, having people come in with dogs and setting traps up and down the creeks.

“Wildlife department flew three times this winter on my property shooting the hogs out of helicopters,” Ripley said.

House Bill 1920 is a recent development to try and get the feral hog problem under control. It allows people to get a permit to aerial hunt on private land in order to kill feral hogs, coyotes or coyote-dog crossbreed. There are certain requirements to be a permit holder. The legislation will go into effect Nov. 1.

Ripley said he believes the problem will only get worse unless something is done on a larger scale.

“Until we address them on that level, and — realistically — until it is more widespread it won’t get the attention that it deserves.” Ripley said.

Noble Foundation initiated a survey in 2007, which was conducted by Oklahoma State University Co-operative Extension, Oklahoma De-partment of Wildlife Conservation, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Oklahoma Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services. The survey estimated the feral hog population in Oklahoma at approximately 500,000 or less, with a presence in all 77 counties.

How bad the problem is locally, though, depends on where you are.

“If you’ve got one feral hog, you’ve got a problem,” said Lt. Frank Huebert, Oklahoma Depart-ment of Wildlife Conservation game warden for Major County. “Where they’re at, they are a big problem.”

Most of the issues in Major County, he said, are in the southwest part of the county, in the North Canadian River watershed.

“We have seen very few sightings north of the river,” he said, although he said there was “tremendous potential” for damage if feral hogs were to get into the crops — corn, peanuts and milo — on irrigated land.

Overall, he would rate the problem in Major County as moderate, given that most reports are in the southwest part of the county.

The drought affecting northwest Oklahoma the past two to three years may have played a part, Huebert said. Feral hogs may be staying closer to water sources and timber and brush, where they can hide, rather than venturing into areas without running creeks.

Phillip Cottrill, game warden for Garfield County, said he’s been on the job here for six months and hasn’t received many calls about feral hogs.

“We don’t want them,” Cottrill said. “We’re fortunate not to have them. As far as economic impact, they can have a big one.”

Cottrill came to Garfield County from Jefferson County, which borders Texas and where he was for eight years.

There, the problem with feral hogs was big. They would go after “any kind of planted crop,” he said, including wheat, watermelon and cantaloupe.

“They cause a lot of damage, Cottrill said.

In the past, reports of feral hogs in Garfield County came primarily from the Drummond area.

The best option for handling feral hogs is to trap them, experts said. In a 2012 interview, Huebert said hunting feral hogs is not the long-term answer, and actually can make the problem worse.

“If you’re not removing about 70 percent of your current population you’re not even addressing the problem,” Huebert said. “In a hunting situation you kill one or two hogs and the rest run off educated.”

He said feral hogs learn from hunting and turn nocturnal, making then harder to track or kill.

“If you can trap them it’s more effective,” Huebert said. “But, people think trapping them isn’t as much fun.”

While trapping may not attract widespread appeal among hunting enthusiasts, officials said it is the best option for removing feral hog populations.

“Trapping them really is the best method for feral hog control,” said Russell Stevens, a wildlife and range consultant for Noble Foundation.

Associate Editor Kevin Hassler and Stillwater NewsPress reporter Merrick Eagleton contributed to this story.

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