A HUGE TASK
story by TRey Iles, LDWF Public Information
Feral hogs certainly won’t win any beauty or popularity contests. They’re ugly, gross, carry numerous diseases, destroy land and are a menace everywhere they show up.
But don’t equate their appearance with how intelligent they are. They’ve proven to be a formidable foe, resourceful and have shown the ability to make themselves scarce when hunting pressure amps up.
Couple that with their ability to rapidly procreate and you get a better understanding of why they’re a big problem in Louisiana and other states. There are approximately 600,000 feral hogs in Louisiana. Eradicating them is nearly impossible with the available tools.
“What we’re doing isn’t working,’’ Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries veterinarian Dr. Jim LaCour said. “They’re damaging the landscape, they’re impacting other wildlife species and they’re potentially harmful to people. These things are causing problems.
“Feral hogs can survive in a parking lot. They’ll find something to eat and they eat everything. They’re very good at hunter avoidance when they want to be,” LaCour added.
With that in mind, the Louisiana Legislature, through House Concurrent Resolution No. 9 during the 2016 regular session, set up the Louisiana Feral Hog Management Advisory Task Force. The group is charged with coming up with ideas and recommendations to stem the feral hog horde besieging Louisiana.
The 11-person task force is broad based and features members from experts on feral hogs from throughout the state, including LDWF, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, the Louisiana Hog Hunters Association, the Louisiana Landowners Association, the Louisiana Forestry Association, the Louisiana Quality Deer Management Association, the LSU College of Agriculture, Louisiana Association of Professional Biologists – Louisiana Chapter of the Wildlife Society, the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation, the Association of Levee Boards of Louisiana and the Bob R. Jones Wildlife Research Institute.
The task force hit the ground running with its first meeting in November of 2016 and by January had come up with five recommendations, including strengthening movement restrictions and expanding enforcement restrictions of feral hogs, expanding opportunities for take of feral hogs on LDWF Wildlife Management Areas and encouraging trapping on private lands through trap- loan programs.
A safe, humane and environmentally sound toxicant for feral hogs has been a topic of conversation for years now within the wildlife management and farming communities. Sodium nitrite has been the one most discussed but is still being tested in Texas. So, it was a surprise when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gave conditional general licensure for a feral hog toxicant called Kaput earlier this year, and the task force was concerned about how little research had been done on Kaput and how it would be dispersed to only feral hogs without impacting other wildlife species.
“It may be the best product in the world,’’ LaCour said of Kaput. “But we have very, very little information about effects on other wildlife. We just don’t know. Warfarin (the active ingredient in the toxicant) is toxic to just about everything. We don’t feel that adequate testing was done before EPA approved the toxicant.’’
One of the most important concerns is that the toxicant could be ingested by non-target species like the Louisiana black bear. The Louisiana black bear was only recently de-listed from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. Any new threats to the long term survivability of black bears could cause re-listing.
LaCour also stated that squirrels and other rodents could feed on bait dropped or scattered by feral hogs, which could lead to secondary intoxication of predators such as bobcats, owls, hawks, eagles and scavengers such as vultures and coyotes.
Ultimately, the use of all plant and animal pesticides in Louisiana falls under the authority of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry. LDAF Commissioner Mike Strain cancelled the registration of Kaput in the state in April, citing concerns of potential threats to the Louisiana black bear.
The task forced added another recommendation during its April meeting. LaCour proposed the task force support studies looking into biological controls of feral hogs, specifically how to make them infertile.
“Face it, shooting is not working, trapping is not working,’’ LaCour said. “The poison is not going to work unless you coat every square inch of Louisiana with it. That’s not feasible. We need something to slow down reproduction and we need something to work while we’re sleeping.’’
Though the technology looks promising for the use of biological controls, LaCour points out it would take some time to get approvals at the federal level. But that’s as it should be, he said.
One of the previous recommendations was to put more teeth into enforcement of laws dealing with the transport of feral hogs. The task force would like all enforcement agencies in Louisiana to be able to enforce existing laws on transport.
The task force also would like the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry to establish a 24-hour permitting system for the legal movement of feral hogs. The recommendation asks that transporters must declare the point of destination in an effort to track every step of the journey.
The recommendation to expand hunting opportunities on LDWF WMAs for feral hogs was met with concern by LDWF personnel. Scott Durham, LDWF Director for Research and Species Management, said an increase could have a detrimental effect on other wildlife species within WMAs.
Attend the Next Task Force Meeting
The task force meets quarterly. The meeting is open to the public.
July 13, 2017
2000 Quail Drive
Baton Rouge, LA 70808
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