Mississippi lawmakers study wild hog problem

Ricky Flynt, a wildlife biologist with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, downloads information into his smartphone as he listens to experts on wild hogs discuss the growing problem of the animals that plaque farmlands, natural habitat reserves, and now even urban areas at a Legislative Wild Hog Summit on Monday, Sept. 9, 2013 in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Ricky Flynt, a wildlife biologist with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, downloads information into his smartphone as he listens to experts on wild hogs discuss the growing problem of the animals that plaque farmlands, natural habitat reserves, and now even urban areas at a Legislative Wild Hog Summit on Monday, Sept. 9, 2013 in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS, Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Wild hogs run rampant in parts of Mississippi, and wildlife experts say the state needs to control the destructive beasts.

The hogs reproduce often, eat just about anything in their path and can grow to 300 pounds. They’re uprooting crops, leaving holes that can destroy farm equipment and tearing up yards.

John J. Mayer, manager of the environmental science group at the Savannah River National Laboratory in Aiken, S.C., has studied hogs more than 40 years. During a meeting Monday at the Mississippi Capitol, he told lawmakers that the United States has experienced a “pig bomb” since the late 1980s with the rapid expansion of wild hog populations. He said 47 states have documented the presence of wild hogs, with an estimated 5.5 million to 8 million of the animals in the U.S.

Wild hogs are found in about half of Mississippi’s 82 counties, and their population is estimated at 20,000 to 150,000. That’s up from an estimated 2,000 in the state in 1965.

“No holds barred — you’ve got to stop that expansion,” Mayer said.

States need to set strong penalties to punish people who transport animals that are used in enclosed wild hog hunting businesses, he said.

Billy Higginbotham, a Texas A&M professor who has dealt with wild hogs for about 30 years, said the prevalence of wild hogs in Mississippi now is comparable to their prevalence in Texas in 1985. Now, he said, wild hogs have been documented in all but one of Texas’ 254 counties. El Paso County, in the far west, is the exception.

Higginbotham said the hogs are “smarter than white-tail deer,” are omnivorous and have moved into urban and suburban areas, where they’re destroying playgrounds, church yards and football and soccer fields. He said females have more than a litter a year, on average: “They’re not born pregnant, but it’s awfully close.”

In 2011, Texas enacted a “porkchopper” law that allows people in helicopters to hunt the hogs.

Oklahoma, which also has a widespread problem, allows what Mayer called a “Judas pig” approach. A wild hog is caught, fitted with an electronic monitoring collar and re-released. Because pigs are social animals, a hunter can wait a couple of weeks, find the collared pig and kill the other pigs around it. The collared pig can be released again to locate other groups.

Mississippi has no restrictions on when wild hogs can be hunted on private property or how many can be killed by one person, said Chad Dacus, wildlife bureau director for the state Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

Randy Knight, president of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, said wild hogs destroyed a freshly planted 300-acre corn field in Sunflower County earlier this year.

“I’ve got a good friend down in Claiborne County that farms on the river down there and he’s actually spent thousands and thousands of dollars trying to put hot wire around his fields so he can continue to farm,” Knight said.

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