Very Cool Hog Bow Kill Video
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Thanks to Al over at SoCal Bowhunter for bringing this one to light.  Since I haven’t been hog hunting in so long I’m not sure I remember what a wild pig looks like, I figured I’d share this pretty cool video clip.  The hunter has four cameras set up, and edits the shots to show not only the traditional “down the barrel” view, but also provides a “reverse view”, looking back up past the hog to the archer.  It’s a neat trick, and really graphic depiction of what a broadhead does as it goes through a pig.  The shot isn’t ideal, but it’s still effective as you’ll see at the end of the clip.  Check it out!

Swine Invasion – Indiana Dealing With Feral Hogs
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I’ve commented in the past about some of the more unique and common-sense approaches many states have taken to manage the spread of feral hogs.  From states like Colorado, where it’s illegal to sell hunts or tresspass fees for feral hogs, to Kansas where it’s illegal to hunt feral hogs at all, state wildlife managers appear to be scrambling to come up with a workable plan.

Indiana already has some pretty stringent rules about the transportation and release of feral swine, but this article from the Star Press sheds some light on the approach the Hoosier State is taking.  The following snip is what caught my attention here:

While wild hogs, also known as wild boars or feral swine, are already present in Indiana, state officials are tight-lipped about their exact location.

“I can tell you from my own nearly 20 years’ experience, … that providing location information is counterproductive to … control measures, and that impacted landowners are very adamant in their desires not to have the locations made known,” said Steven Backs, a wildlife research biologist at the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. “For many of them, the hog hunter problem is sometimes worse than the hogs themselves.”

The “hog hunter problem”…

I’m afraid that’s a pretty telling comment.  The remainder of the article doesn’t let hog hunters off the hook either.  The strategy the state is taking is intended to discourage the idea that wild hogs present a recreational hunting opportunity.  Instead, the affected landowners and state DNR intend to fight the spread of feral hogs through depredation shooting and trapping in concert with the USDA’s professional trappers.

It’s an unfortunate reality that too many hunters apparently don’t get it when it comes to the importation and release of non-native species.  They either don’t know, or don’t care that releasing hogs into the habitat creates a problem for everyone.  Education is a good first step in controlling this, but I’m afraid that selfish greed will continue to trump common sense as hunters continue to try to establish huntable populations of feral hogs around the country.

USFS and BLM Plan To Eradicate San Diego Area Hogs
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If you want to make a wild pig smile, tell him your plans.

Sorry, but that’s kind of how I feel about the news I just read.  According to this piece in the San Diego Union-Tribune, the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management are putting together a plan to eradicate the rapidly growing herds of wild hogs in San Diego county… or at least in the National Forest and BLM lands.

I’ve written a time or two in the past about the expansion of wild hogs off of the property of the Barona Indian tribe, around the El Capitan reservoir.  It was a poorly considered idea, and it didn’t take a Carnac to see where it would lead.   The (reportedly)two or three dozen animals released in 2006 to create a huntable population on the reservation have jumped the boundaries and reproduced until the USFS estimates the numbers at around 300-400.  Local hunters guess-timate the numbers at more than twice that.

Is eradication a realistic goal?  Well, according to the article, it sounds like the experts from the federal agencies are actually hoping for more of a management objective.

From the San Diego Union-Tribune article:

“Our focus has to be what we can do at this point to control the effect they are having now,” said Joan Friedlander, supervising ranger of the Palomar District of the Cleveland National Forest. “But it also has to be about controlling the population, keeping it low and at a threshold so it’s not growing exponentially and beyond what we can handle.”

Personally, I’m with a lot of folks when I say I don’t think there’s any way the Feds are going to clean the hogs out of those canyons and hills.  It’s rough country, which is part of the reason recreational hunters haven’t been able to knock the numbers back.  To eradicate hogs, you have to literally remove every breeding pair from the habitat.  A feral sow can reproduce almost three times in a year.  The young become sexually mature between six and eight months of age, which means that you’ll have multiple generations breeding within two or three years.

But maybe it’s feasible.  The area that holds hogs is relatively geographically distinct, and a well-orchestrated approach might be able to get them all.

At what cost?

According to the article, the project will probably run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Given the methods described in the article, that seems a little optimistic.  Aerial shooting, and putting professional sharpshooters in the field is going to cost a lot.  Even trapping and “euthanizing” the hogs will not be inexpensive.  A properly organized and comprehensive campaign can’t cut corners on anything, because for every corner left open, hogs will slip out.

Is it worth it?  I think it’s debatable… particularly since everything hinges on success.  A partial failure is a complete failure.

Here’s where YOU come in, dear reader, especially if you live in Southern California.  The public has the opportunity to comment on this issue through June 26.  Even if you’re not a hog hunter, it’s worth understanding what’s being proposed because this is your tax money.  It’s your land (more or less).  You have the right to speak out for or against the eradication program.

Actually, because we’re talking about federal agencies and National Forest land, this is technically in the interests of all of us US citizens.  Every one of us has a voice in this… for whatever it’s worth.  Use it.

To send comments about the project

You can send your comments to the U.S. Forest Service by mailing them before June 26 to Pete Gamben, environmental coordinator, Cleveland National Forest, 10845 Rancho Bernardo Road, Suite 200, San Diego, CA 92127.

Comments may be made via telephone at (858) 674-2901 or fax at (858) 673-6192. Hand delivery of comments may be made between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on business days at the address listed above.

Comments may also be emailed in a Word (.doc) rich text format (.rtf), portable document format (.pdf) or text (.txt) format to pgomben@fs.fed.us

 

 

Porcine Press – Hog Problems In The Lone Star State
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“Really,” you ask?  “Big bloody d’uh!”

Yeah, I know, it’s no news that hog populations are blossoming in Texas.  Hell, it’s estimated that half the feral hogs in the US are in Texas right now, and the number is growing fast.  Then why bother to post up more articles about the same old thing? 

Well, partly because this is the time of year I start thinking of my annual Texas hunting trip (which may or may not happen this year).  I just got my latest press release from Texas Parks and Wildlife, and it led me to an article in the TPW magazine, When Pigs and People Collide

The article was pretty much the standard fare.  Pigs are hard to control.  Pigs are damaging crops, habitat, farm equipment, and threatening livestock with disease.  Etc. Etc.   Still, I can’t seem to keep myself from reading this stuff, and from time to time I’m rewarded with a solid quote, like this one:

“Control is the key word,” Boedeker tells me. “We can’t eradicate them because they breed too fast. This is the third time in the past couple of years that I’ve flown this ranch, and by the number of pigs I see each time I come here, you wouldn’t know that we’ve done anything. All we can do is hope to control them to the point that we can slow down the damage they cause.”

The Boedeker in the article is an animal control specialist and is licensed to perform aerial shooting, as well as other control measures.  I like the pragmatic way he looks at the problem.

And then, as I was reading this, I got an email from Rex, over at the Deer Camp Blog.  Rex was short on commentary, but just included a link to an article on CBS Local.com, out of the Dallas/Fort Worth area.  Apparently the wild hogs are moving right into the edges of the big city, and are tearing up lawns and landscaping in Irving, as well as in Dallas proper. 

Again, the article really didn’t offer much that hasn’t already been said.  Lots of hyperbole about the potential danger to people, and plenty of the same old thing about crop and ecosystem damage.  But what got me was the comments on the article.  A lot of it is the standard B.S. you see on newspaper websites… conservative vs. liberal… but the real killer to me was the pure ignorance about wild hogs, in part fed by rumor and hearsay, and in part fed, I’m sure, by the foolishness on Discovery and National Geographic television. 

Some examples:

  • Hogs are native species and we (humans) displaced them… we should leave them be.
  • The feral hogs are crossbreeds between javelina and domestic pigs (my personal favorite!)
  • The feral hogs aren’t really hogs at all, but are javelina
  • The feral hogs are inedible.
  • The feral hogs are dangerous, and should only be hunted from a tree stand.
  • Feral hogs should only be cooked by “specially trained” individuals because of the diseases
  • And so on…

I’ve always had a hard time finding humor in real ignorance, but what I read on that site was almost laughable.  Check it out yourself, and let me know what you think.

Excellent Video On Wild Pigs – A Pickup Load Of Pigs
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While I was at the SHOT Show last week, my friend Rex sent me links to the following video series.  It’s an informational piece on wild and feral hogs in the US, and it offers some really good, fairly balanced discussion about the sources of wild hogs, their real and potential impacts, and what it will take to control them.  It’s not as “exciting”, perhaps, as that hyperbolic bullshit that Discovery Channel put out, The Pig Bomb, but that’s OK.  The truth isn’t all that exciting sometimes. 

For the purposes of distribution on YouTube, the video was broken into three parts.  Total playing time is just under a half hour, so make sure you have time to take in the whole thing before you start.  I think it’s totally worth it. 

Oh, and I did have some points of contention with certain parts and statements, but I think that’s to be expected.  Overall, this was a very well done documentary. 

So here it is…
Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

 

Hog Hunters See Success
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While I was out helping out with our hunters at Native Hunt this weekend, some Hog Blog friends were out getting it done on their own.

First of all, my friend David was back up at the Golden Ram’s Hedgepeth Ranch last week, and managed to make the past tense out of a sow.

In his own words…

I went back up to the Hedgepeth on Thurs after missing a MONSTER on Tues.  Was walkin through the same area and heard them russlin around in the leaves below me.  I circled down below them and started walking up the hill.  I could see some small ones under an Oak tree and then a good size sow walked out and presented a good shot.  As Im raising the rifle I felt a slight breeze on the back of my neck.  She started to sniff the air, and right when I had her in my scope she looked at me.  I let the 30-06 rip and she never took another step.

 

Meanwhile, away down south in Dixie (Mississippi), my friend Rex and the Christmas Place Gang were having a regular hogathon.  While they should have been shooting deer, they fell into my bad habits and everyone shot hogs instead… and some pretty danged nice ones too!  Check out the story at Rex’s Deer Camp blog.

For my own part, our hunters at Native Hunt did pretty well.  By the end of the weekend, we had eight hogs down for seven guys (if I counted this right).  The rain made things a little tricky, and despite some minor adventures in the clay, mud, and fog, we were able to get in there and get it done! 

I’m heading back up to Native Hunt this coming weekend, as soon as I get back from a work trip to Spokane.  Wonder if there are any hogs up in Washington yet?

Interesting Article On Feral Pigs In My Backyard
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Scrounging around the Interwebz for something of interest about wild pigs, hog hunting, etc., I found this piece in The Bay Citizen.

The article is about feral hogs, wild boar, and turkeys and their impacts on the local habitat.  The author did a ride-along with a trapper, and from the descriptions I’m pretty sure I know exactly where they were.  I’ve ridden horseback up on several of those traps, and seen the hogs in the park from time to time.  I’ve also seen a place or two where the hogs have been working over virgin territory… especially in the spring after the rains.

The trappers do a great job of minimizing the hogs on the park, but they really haven’t done much with the turkeys.  However, the turkey population, from my own observations, seems relatively stable out there.  I expect coyotes, foxes, bobcats, and the occasional lion do their part with that.  There are still plenty of birds, but the flocks seem to stay pretty consistent. 

Anyway, the main reason for posting about the article (besides the fact that I haven’t had much else to write about) was that the author actually spoke to several biologists and researchers, and I think he got a pretty fair mix of opinion and fact.  For example, it’s a fact that in sensitive environments, the hogs and turkeys can definitely have a negative impact.  But what you don’t often hear in these articles is the other possibility, which is also captured in the piece.  In some cases, these invasive species can actually have a positive impact. 

The ecological impact of disturbances like that is complex. Feral pig rooting creates disturbance that leaves openings for both native and nonnative plants. In areas already full of exotic weeds, like many parts of the Bay Area, that’s bad news for natives, especially plants that grow from bulbs. Some biologists even consider pigs the top threat to rare native lilies. But in areas with few invasives, the pig disturbance could actually enhance habitat for certain native plants. DFG biologist Marc Kenyon says that in some places, after pig rooting, “we’ve noted more rare plants coming back.”

So it’s not a glowing endorsement of non-native species, but it does shine a light on the complexities of understanding the big picture impacts of hogs and turkeys. 

Now I know there are a handful of folks out there bristling at the fact that these parks aren’t opened to sport hunters (for readers back east, some of these regional “parks” are bigger than some eastern Wilderness Areas) , especially when it comes to paying professional hunters and trappers to manage populations.  The argument that the parks could make money off of the sport hunters, instead of paying “hired killers” is not a new one, and maybe not completely without merit.  However, sport hunters are simply not the right solution for many reasons, most of which I’ve discussed before.  Eradication and control are not part-time, recreational pursuits. 

I’ll add that the public relations nightmare that would result from allowing hunters into many of the regional parks would be far more than any reasonable administrators could handle.  It’s simply not feasible on a broad scale.  Maybe in some isolated cases, it could work out as an additional hunting opportunity… but in general, it’s just not going to happen, people. 

(One other thing that’s seldom mentioned in articles about the feral pigs on public land is the fact that most of the East Bay parks are heavily grazed by cattle for a large part of the year.  When you hear the park biologists talking about damage from invasive, non-native species, it’s often like the cattle don’t even exist… as if not mentioning them erases their impacts on the habitat.  True enough, without the cattle to keep the understory down, the threat of wildfire would make the parks unsafe, but at the same time, I just find it irresponsible to discuss the ecological impact of the unwanted species without consideration of the “preferred” non-natives.)

So anyway, have a look at the piece if you’re interested.  I do think it was well-written and about as even-handed as any I’ve seen so far.

Michigan Stepping Up Hog Control Efforts
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As Michigan lawmakers struggle over the decision to ban wild hogs (feral and Eurasian) altogether, or to increase the regulations around them, the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy is asking citizens to step up efforts to remove the animals from the wild. 

From the Hunting Wire:

Wild Hog Removal Program Needs Citizen Help 
 
BATH, Mich. – The Michigan Wildlife Conservancy, a non-profit organization based in Bath, near Lansing, is asking citizens to help strike back against our state’s growing population of wild hogs. The Conservancy will offer a group training session for volunteer hog trappers at the Bay City State Park Visitor’s Center on Wednesday, October 6 from 6:00 – 9:30 p.m. Information about the session can be obtained by contacting the Conservancy at 517-641-7677 or via email at wildlife@miwildlife.org.

The group has been educating people for several years about the threat posed by the estimated 3,000 to 5,000 wild hogs in Michigan, and has an action program that goes far beyond simply encouraging sport hunters to shoot wild hogs. Hundreds of wild boars, mostly of Eurasian stock, have escaped from hunting ranches and breeding/raising facilities in Michigan. Wild hogs have been confirmed in at least 69 of Michigan’s 83 counties. Most are in bands of fewer than 20 animals, but are reproducing in the wild and spreading. The hogs are already causing crop and forest damage, and diseases that could devastate the domestic swine industry have been found in free-roaming wild hogs shot in Michigan in two locations.

In 2008, the Wildlife Conservancy helped sponsor renowned wild hog expert, Dr. Jack Mayer, of South Carolina, who conducted several related seminars. Last January, the organization developed The Michigan Wild Hog Removal Program in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services branch, the Federal Natural Resources Conservation Service and many other groups. The program aims to develop a network of trained volunteers who can work with biologists and technicians in a widespread hog elimination program. Volunteers can help find hogs and set and monitor corral-type traps provided through the program. Several traps have already been built with funds from the Conservancy and groups like the Michigan Pork Producers Association and Michigan Forest Association. During the next 12 months there will be a special effort in Arenac, Bay, Gladwin and Midland Counties.

To succeed at controlling wild hogs the Wildlife Conservancy would like to build and deploy 100 corral traps around the state. Each trap costs $500 for materials and labor, so $50,000 is needed just for the traps. The Conservancy is calling on sportsmen’s groups, conservation districts, farm organizations and all groups interested in wildlife and natural resources to sponsor a wild hog trap or host a fundraiser locally for the project.

“Wild hogs have gotten out of control in nearly 40 other states, causing an estimated $1.5 billion in damage to forests, residential areas, crops, and livestock annually,” said Conservancy President Bill Taylor, of Olivet. “We intend to make Michigan as inhospitable as possible for this exotic species, and need citizen help on many fronts – finding and reporting hogs, fund-raising, contacting legislators, and educating others about this menace.”

The Wildlife Conservancy is asking citizens to report the presence of wild hogs to USDA Wildlife Services at 517-336-1928 or via email at timothy.s.wilson@aphis.usda.gov. Wild hogs are nomadic, that is, they don?t stay long in any location. So, it is important that citizens report wild hogs immediately when they spot animals or see hog signs.

“Citizens are key to controlling Michigan’s growing wild hog problem,” said Tim Wilson, a biologist with USDA Wildlife Services. “The hogs are too widespread for traditional control efforts by governmental agencies to be cost effective. This partnership gives us a chance to deploy our resources where and when it will do the most good.” 

Hog Blog Friends In The Field – Youngsters Getting It Done This Season
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After spending some time catching up on the blogs from my blogroll, it looks like the youngsters are off to a great start in the 201o hunting season. 

Up in Michigan,  Arthur’s (Simply Outdoors) nephew, Tyler, scored on a nice little doe to kick off his whitetail deer season.  According to Arthur’s account , while Tyler helped finish off a deer last year, this is his first solo kill. 

I still remember how that felt when I was a kid, so congratulations to Tyler!  Here’s to many more successful hunts!

Closer to home, my friend and fellow Skinny Moose blogger, John Martin has been keeping a chronicle of his 2010-2011 hunting season on his Western Wanderer blog.  So far, the mythical blacktail buck has eluded him, but he and his daughter, Erin, have been out there giving it their best.  On a recent hunt in Sonoma County, John and Erin had a couple of close encounters with feral hogs.  The first shot went wild, but a few moments later, Erin connected for the one-shot kill, and her wild hog was on the ground. 

Nice work, Erin!  Now your dad just needs to take a lesson from you and score his own critters!  Good luck over the remainder of the deer season.

Porcine Press And What Else Is Going On?
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I realize that even though the Ethics Roundtable is going pretty well, I haven’t been posting all that much the last couple of weeks.  I really need to go hunting. 

There’s a lot going on out there in the world of hogs and hunting, so how about we take a quick look around to see who’s doing what?

First of all, my friend and fellow Skinny Moose blogger, Moose, has been covering the recent upswing in feral hog stories back in North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  According to this article, the Eurasian hogs that have been there for decades are now being supplemented by feral hogs, which may or may not have been released by hunters.  They’re being blamed for significant damage to the Smoky Mountain ecosystem, and the park system folks are trying hard to come up with a solution.  Moose also had another story earlier about more hogs in the Tarheel State, this time in the central part of the state.  They’re spreading fast!

Down in South Carolina, feral hogs have been around for a while, but the State is apparently ready to do something drastic, at least with the animals living on one of the coastal islands.  According to this article in the Myrtle Beach Sun Times, the State will be bringing in hunters to control the population of hogs on North Island, a small barrier island on the ocean side of Winyah Bay.  Barrier islands are generally small, delicate ecosystems that provide nesting and shelter for many sea birds, sea turtles, and other creatures.  I can see where a burgeoning wild hog population would be unwelcome there.

“Feral hogs have continued to multiply on the island, causing destruction to the landscape and native plants, jeopardizing the nesting success of ground-nesting birds as well as sea turtle nests scattered along the beaches of (the island),’’ said Jamie Dozier, wildlife biologist with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

DNR officials hope the hunts can put a major dent in the hog population and help preserve the island. The hunts are part of an overall hog removal project on the Yawkey Wildlife Center. The agency will allow three, two-day hog hunts with dogs to take place on North Island only in February. The weekend hunts are scheduled for Feb. 12-13, 19-20 and 26-27 from sunrise to sunset only. North Island is only accessible after crossing Winyah Bay by boat and contains 1,410 acres of uplands and 1,703 acres of marsh. 

So all you SC hunters, here’s an opportunity to get in some hog hunting, fill your freezers, and help out the environment all in a weekend or two!  Step up!

Heading all the way over to Texas, a quick glance of recent news stories about wild hogs and boar shows a stack of articles like this one, all clamoring about the continued spread of these animals across the state.  The tone is almost always the same:

Feral hogs root and trample for acorns and other food, sometimes taking out large areas of crops or pasture. They are omnivorous and will also eat eggs, particularly those of ground-nesting turkeys, as well as small animals. The hogs are blamed for more than $52 million in losses to agriculture in the state each year, and are also blamed for water quality problems.

They can pass along diseases like brucellosis and pseudorabies (not related to rabies) to other wild and domestic animals. Tests conducted for the Texas Animal Health Commission show that about 20 percent of the hogs tested carried pseudorabies and about 10 percent carried brucellosis.

These concerns are very real, and have led Texas to allow some pretty harsh measures to control the spread, including night hunting and even aerial depredation.  The war is on!

What’s being done?  Well, many things as I’ve called out here before.  I know it’s a hot topic in a lot of places, and a lot of folks are talking.  There’s a Wild Pig Conference scheduled for April, in Pensacola, Florida… another state that’s currently “under seige” by feral pigs.  Here’s what it’s all about:

Damage caused by wild pigs is one of the greatest concerns to wildlife biologists and managers today. Wild pigs have the potential to cause ecological and economical destruction far surpassing any other invasive exotic vertebrate. The adaptive and prolific nature of these animals along with their capabilities for widespread devastation places their management as one of the top priorities for wildlife scientists. The International Wild Pig Conference is the only forum in the world that provides federal, state, and private stakeholders a venue to discuss biological, financial, and social implications specific to wild pig subsistence in our ecosystems. The conference will assemble experienced managers as well as those new to the wild pig industry in a professional, educational atmosphere.

(NOTE:  If any magazine editors or wealthy benefactors are reading this right now, I could sure use a sponsor to cover my costs to attend this conference.)

That’s about it for right now.  I’ve got some hunts coming up soon, so maybe I can finally get back to what I love… and write about something more fun than ethics debates or lead-free ammo!