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Allowing Landowners and Hunters to Cull Feral Hogs Is Humane

Gabriella Hoffman
by Gabriella Hoffman Read Profile arrow_right_alt

There was a lot of back-and-forth about feral hogs on social media last week.

Feral hogs were brought into the news cycle last week after singer-songwriter Jason Isabell tweeted his support of a ban on so-called assault weapons—where one user responded in the following way:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture also tweeted about their newly-unveiled Feral Swine Eradication and Control Pilot Program (FSCP)—a joint effort between the agency’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

Here’s more on the USDA’s pilot program:

NRCS will direct up to $33.75 million of the allocated FSCP funds toward partnership efforts to work with landowners in identified pilot projects in targeted areas. Applications are being accepted through Aug. 19, 2019…Pilot projects will consist broadly of three coordinated components: 1) feral swine removal by APHIS; 2) restoration efforts supported by NRCS; and 3) assistance to producers for feral swine control provided through partnership agreements with non-federal partners. Projects can be one to three years in duration.

The pilot program was unveiled in June and will offer $75 million in funding aimed at eradicating and control feral hogs throughout the United States. The targeted areas include portions of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas.

It was included in last year’s Farm Bill.

Feral hogs are highly invasive. Six million can be found across the majority of states, according to the Washington Post. In Texas, this wild pig problem is greatly evident. They pose a serious problem to crops and farming land, causing chaos and destruction wherever these voracious creatures inhabit.

According to the New Republic, however, it isn’t feral hogs who are the invasive species. We are. (Head. Desk.):

There’s a certain amount of hubris that comes with assuming that wildlife is invading human spaces. In truth, the reverse is true. Since the arrival of European settlers, humans in America have sought to conquer, rather than adapt to, their surroundings; the expansion of human populations on the continent has caused the steady, and sometimes rapid, elimination of animal populations. Buffalo were hunted nearly to extinction in the nineteenth century, counting fewer than 1,000 at the turn of the century. Gray wolves faced a similar fate in the twentieth century. By the time the Environmental Species Act went into effect in 1973, fewer than 1,000 wolves lived in the lower 48 states.* (Both populations have since rebounded thanks to conservation efforts.)

The writer then goes on to suggest feral hogs must be managed with contraceptives—which is impractical, a waste of taxpayer dollars, and highly ineffective:

Gunning down feral hogs is gratuitous, and possibly even ineffective: The Post noted that Texas wildlife officials have warned that .223 caliber ammunition—the kind typically used in AR-15-type rifles—“may not be enough to pierce [hogs’] tough hide.” Vox’s Dylan Matthews, who wrote about the feral hog tweet from a more philosophical standpoint last week, noted that more humane methods like contraceptives have been remarkably effective in managing other wild animal populations. That option doesn’t currently exist for feral hogs, but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility. Since humans helped create the feral hog problem in the first place, they have an obligation to solve it in an ethical manner.

Culling the feral hog population doesn’t mean wiping out an entire species. Similar culling efforts of other invasive species—like the Burmese python and iguanas in Florida to Asian carp in the Midwest to snakeheads in the Mid-Atlantic— are common practices aimed at curbing their reach. State wildlife agencies encourage these very solutions, have seen proven success in them, and believe these efforts help protect native species.

As much as the USDA’s efforts are appreciated, I believe feral hogs could be better managed independent of the agency.

In most states, hunters—new and seasoned alike—must have a resident hunting license to harvest wild hogs on private property. Opportunities to help land owners cull these pests should be made available—not relinquished to agency representatives, unless otherwise stated.

Allowing hunters and landowners to better manage feral hogs will not burden taxpayers. Instead, it’ll allow participants to assist and do their part to cull these nuisance species.

Hunters are the true conservationists, after all.

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