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Battling Indiana's Wild Hog Population
The wild hog population in Indiana is a complex issue. Many preach what they consider common sense solutions to a growing wild hog population, but they are only seeing one side of the problem. The recent decision in Texas to allow the use of Warfarin to control feral hogs has caused quite an argument between farmers, ranches, hunters, and a laundry list of other groups that are concerned about the effects and unintended consequences.
Warfarin is the active agent in blood thinners used for heart patients. It was found to have a fatal affect in hogs and rodents in small doses. This rightly led to concern that these dead animals would become food for scavengers which would also ingest the compound and die. Of greater concern is that humans would kill and ingest meat from hogs that had eaten Warfarin-laced bait.
Studies claim that ingestion by humans or animal scavengers should not be an issue. The example given is that a human would have to eat over two-pounds of Warfarin-laced liver to equal one normal dose that a heart patient receives.
To further warn hunters away from Warfarin-laced meat, a blue dye is added that turns laced meat and fat a bright blue.
Like in Texas, the whole topic of wild hogs in Indiana is a controversial topic.
Some advocates want wild hogs to thrive and spread to provide sport hunting opportunities. Farmers and conservationists strongly oppose the spread of wild hogs because of the extensive and sometimes irreparable damage they cause. Any state that has large population of wild hogs end up spending monumental amounts of funds to combat them.
Estimating the wild hog population in Indiana is extremely hard due to their nature and choice of habitat, but current estimates run around 500. While the wild hog population is relatively small in Indiana, it has the potential for explosive growth.
Currently there are few regulations on the hunting of wild hogs in Indiana. No licenses are required and no bag limits are in place. But, you must have written permission of the landowner to hunt hogs on their land, captured wild hogs must be killed immediately, it’s illegal to release a wild hog, and no wild hog may be transported alive. In 2015 regulations were modified to stop the use of dogs to hunt hogs and make abetting or assisting in the release of wild pigs illegal.
Forget what we see on the television shows as they do not yet apply to wild hogs in Indiana.
First, establishing consistent use of bait by pigs is often difficult. The hills of southern Indiana are a smorgasbord of readily available foods for wild hogs. Between mast, berries, grubs, roots, tubers, frogs, crawfish, and hundreds of other items, providing bait to Indiana’s wild hogs is like opening another burger-joint in an area that’s already saturated with burger joints.
The problem with hunting as a means of pig population control is its ineffectiveness. Removing a few individual pigs at a time through shooting is extremely ineffective compared to completely removing all the members of a group, and in fact hunting generally worsens the problem. The wild hogs become more warry, bait and trap shy, more nocturnal, and pigs quickly learn where to take refuge, often in some of the most rugged terrain in the Hoosier State.
Trying to invade their territory to root one out, pun intended, is like trying to rid an old house of cockroaches with a flyswatter. Unless the hunter is extremely lucky, the hogs will be long gone before ever being seen.
In many cases the wild hogs killed in Indiana were taken by someone deer hunting from a stand.
Here’s the problem: Currently Indiana’s wild hogs are in a few small locations. If hunting pressure is put upon those hogs, they may disperse into other areas, start new populations, and become more difficult to remove through more effective trapping of sounders.
In nature, when an animal moves into an area, their litter rates explode to match the food and habitat available. As the population of that animal increases, the litter rates decrease in response to the decrease of available food and habitat. Placing ever-expanding hunting pressure on wild hogs could very well cause a population explosion in Indiana. We know this to be because it has happened in other nearby states.
Of greater importance is that as hog populations and popularity grows, so does the demand for more hog hunting opportunities. This leads to clandestine illegal hog releases into new areas, a practice that is well documented in Tennessee and other southern states.
As wild hog populations increase, food available for other game will decrease. Turkeys, ruffed grouse, deer, and countless other Indiana wildlife will not only be competing for food, they will become food for the hogs. Hunters and biologists find that as hogs move into an area the deer and turkey leave or disappear.
Of extra concern is the potential for devastation of Indiana’s agriculture, especially row and hay crops. Wild pigs carry many diseases that could potentially infect livestock (pigs and cattle) causing not only health problems for livestock but jeopardize the “state livestock health certifications” adversely impacting exports and marketing of Indiana produced meat and other related products. Imagine the impact to our economy if Indiana’s multi-billion dollar a year hog farming production had to be destroyed to prevent viral contamination.
So is the use of Warfarin a silver bullet for the wild hog issue? Steven Backs, IDNR biologist and Indiana’s expert on wild hogs says no.
“Pigs are highly intelligent animals, and there are likely individual pigs that will recognize various types of toxicant no matter what mediums are used to disguise the toxicant,” Backs said. “Toxicants will likely just be another tool in the management tool box and we are likely a long ways from it being the main tool. There are specific requirements of the EPA labeling that may limit its practical and legal use as well.”
Of equal concern to Backs is what individuals may try to do with the Warfarin products, and the consequences both to wildlife and public perception of the product. “The main concern with the press that the warfarin “KaPut” has gotten in TX is that there will be illegal “wildcat” uses of other warfarin or similar products meant for mice/rats with some potential bad outcomes on non-target species (e.g., native wildlife and people’s pets) that will result in a negative perspective for any future approvals.”
If that becomes the case, an effective tool may be taken away from landowners and others trying to eliminate an exotic, non-native, invasive species problem in Indiana.
So what’s next? Even for Backs the future use of Warfarin isn’t clear. “As far as consideration for use in Indiana, that remains to be seen. There will be individual state environmental approval processes as well as approval through the various state chemist offices, as there are for pesticides/herbicides (that will need to be completed). Even with KaPut and other toxicants under development there will always be some challenges regarding safe, effective and practical delivery systems. There are some other toxicants being researched for use on wild pigs, one is probably better than Warfarin but it has some delivery system issues.”
What’s the future hold? No one can say for certain. Facing the threat of costly lawsuits "Scimetrics Ltd Corp has withdrawn its registration of Kaput Feral Hog Bait in the state of Texas," Colorado-based Scimetrics Ltd. Corp. said in a news release. "We have received tremendous support from farmers and ranchers in the State of Texas, and have empathy for the environmental devastation, endangered species predation, and crop damage being inflicted there by a non-native animal. However, under the threat of many lawsuits, our family-owned company cannot at this time risk the disruption of our business and continue to compete with special interests in Texas that have larger resources to sustain a lengthy legal battle.” (KNIGHT, 2017)
It appears Texas is already is experiencing what Indiana fears might happen; special interests are making wild hogs an industry, therefore trying to protect their cash cow, or pig as it were.
Whatever the future holds, we expect people will be lining up on both sides to fight for what they see is right.
WildIndiana would like to thanks IDNR Biologist Steven Backs for information used in this article.
Individuals observing wild pigs are asked to contact one of the following to report the approximate location and number of hogs observed:
Indiana Division of Fish & Wildlife at dfw@dnr.IN.gov
Board of Animal Health (BOAH) at (877) 747-3038 or animalhealth@boah.IN.gov
Individuals observing the illegal possession, importation or release of wild hogs should contact DNR Law Enforcement at 1-800-TIP-IDNR.
Can a person legally kill a wild hog in Indiana? A landowner, tenant, or other person with written permission of the landowner can shoot or trap a wild hog on that landowner’s private property without a permit. Be sure to check local ordinances before using a firearm. If trapped, the hog must be killed at the trap site or euthanized immediately after moving it from the trap site. However, wild hogs cannot be offered for compensation of any kind for hunting or taking purposes and cannot be released into the wild.
EDITORS NOTE: WildIndiana.com STRONGLY urges that hunters do everything in their power to prevent the importation and release of wild hogs in Indiana. For all the reasons presented in this article, hunters who go along with plans to release wild hogs are harming all of Indiana’s natural resources and the agricultural livelihood of many Hoosier families. Don’t support, openly or covertly, the importation of wild hogs!!!
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