By The Associated Press
VICKSBURG – Wild hogs are making a mess in the Vicksburg National Military Park.
Since a mass migration of hogs, alligators, coyotes and other wildlife moved down the Mississippi River as it reached record flood marks in May, wild hogs have made the northern third of the 1,800-acre park their rooting grounds.
“We’ve removed 11 so far since mid-October,” said Mike Madell, the park’s superintendent. “And we’ve just sighted the group of seven. It’s definitely a problem.”
The park has enlisted the help of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to trap and shoot the nuisance animals to head off any movement south or east where they could cross paths with joggers on the tour road.
“We can’t transport them live,” said Virginia DuBowy, the park’s natural resources manager. “So, we do it in a humane way.”
Wild swine weigh up to about 200 pounds and can be aggressive, usually around piglets.
They may be hunted in Mississippi year-round without firearm restrictions. Concealed weapons may be carried in the park, but must remain inside one’s vehicle, said Rick Martin, the park’s chief of operations.
Wild boars spotted at Riverfront Park in Vicksburg forced the city to close the park for nearly two days in the week leading up to the river’s record 57.1-foot crest May 19.
Park officials saw an initial wave of hogs as the river rose and fell slowly. Some were believed to be the last of a group that had escaped from farmland near the park about two years ago, DuBowy said.
“The food source for them is tremendous, with the grubs and plants,” she said. “They’ve got a lot of water and a lot of cover. It’s hard to get to – but the pigs don’t seem to have a problem with it. It’s an inviting place for them.”
Extensive crossbreeding has varied the appearance of wild boars, in terms of shape and coat color, according to a report issued by USDA in August. The agency says estimates of the U.S. feral pig population in 2010 reached 5 million over 37 states, up from 16 states in 1982.
The animals cause more than $1 billion in damages to public and private property annually, the report said.