Franklin County is joining with other surrounding counties in opposition to the federal government banning the hunting of feral hogs in Mark Twain National Forest.

The opposition comes as the feral hog population in Missouri continues to grow and threatens thousands of dollars of damage to public and private land.

Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) agent Ben Pursley patrols Franklin County on a daily basis and says the hog population has not yet reached the county, but a few have trickled in.

“Franklin County is urban enough we haven’t had a hog report here in four or five years, but they are not very far away,” he said. “They’ve been doing a pretty good job eradicating them, but there are populations in Washington, Iron and Crawford counties, which are much more rural.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are conducting trapping efforts in the national forest which is regarded as the best way to deal with the hog problem.

Killing of feral hogs in permitted on private property, but the MDC recommends contacting it or a similar authority to deal with the issue in a more controlled way.

Resolution

On Tuesday, county commissioners approved a resolution against the banning of hog hunting on federal lands. 

The wild and/or feral hog population is currently most dense in southern Missouri counties, therefore proper management is imperative to keep them from moving to northern counties.

The Franklin County commissioners are in agreement that all avenues and resources, public and private, of wild and/or feral hog management must be utilized to keep the at-large population in check.

Mark Twain National Forest represents over 2 million acres of public property, which adjoins millions of acres of private properties, and contains a large concentration of Missouri’s wild (feral) hogs.

“We are in consensus that deliberately banning or inhibiting thousands of current law-abiding public and private hog hunters, trappers, and landowners from participating in said game management on public property, will ultimately result in rampant overpopulation in current locations on private property.” the resolution states.

The population explosion threatens to spread, across the state; and the commission believes the closure of Mark Twain National Forest will also inadvertently create undue federal criminal charges against citizens who have participated in wild (feral) hog management on said public property for generations, for the lawful purposes of recreation, conservation, and human consumption.

Issues

Media specialist for the MDC, Dan Zarlenga, says feral hogs are certainly a hot topic.

“The fact is that MDC has banned hunting feral hogs of any sort on all conservation areas,” he explained. “The facts show that random hunting is not as effective at eradicating feral hogs as systematic elimination methods like organized trapping, aerial shooting, etc.”

Zarlenga added random hunting/shooting of feral hogs can actually disrupt those more effective techniques.

When one or two hogs are shot in the same area, it scatters the sounder which will then colonize in other areas making the problem worse. 

“Beyond that, it is an enablement issue since it promotes the feral hog ‘hunting culture’ which created the problem to begin with,” he said. “As long as feral hog hunting is allowed, it will perpetuate the underground hog releasers in the same way that drug use will always create a market for drug pushers.”

Zarlenga added the hunting ban being proposed on federal lands, including Mark Twain National Forest, will very likely be adopted in the near future for the same reasons.  

Feral Hog Public Comment

Mark Twain National Forest is proposing a Forest Closure Order to support interagency efforts to eliminate feral swine (also known as feral hogs) in Missouri. 

The Forest Closure Order would prevent the taking, pursuing or releasing of all feral swine on the forest. The only exception would apply to feral swine elimination efforts conducted by the interagency task force.

The proposal is in response to a Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) request to make policies consistent across all public lands in Missouri to halt the spread of feral swine and the resulting damage they cause. 

The state of Missouri feral swine elimination program bans all taking, pursuing or releasing of feral swine on state lands. 

The State asked the Forest Service and National Park Service for support as part of the Missouri Feral Hog Partnership. 

The proposed closure order would align lands managed by the Forest Service with the efforts of Missouri and other federal agencies, including USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

The Forest Service will consider public comments to determine if the proposal should be implemented as presented, implemented with modifications suggested by public comments, or if the forest will decline to implement a closure. 

Comments must be received during the official comment period between May 24, 2019 and July 23, 2019. Comments received (or postmarked) after July 23 will not be considered.

To comment the public can visit: www.fs.usda.gov/detail/mtnf/landmanagement.