Note: This story by WildIndiana Publisher Brent T. Wheat previously appeared in his newspaper column 'Out in the Open' that runs in several central-Indiana newspapers. It is part of our ongoing coverage of Indiana's hog problem.
One of the worst-kept, best-kept secrets in Indiana is the fact that there are numerous wild hogs living in the forests of southern Indiana. This is fact, not fiction, hearsay or social media horse dumplings but a guaranteed, 100-precent real-deal reality. It’s also a very bad thing. Let me explain.
Wild hog populations are exploding and hog hunts are becoming a hot commodity across the U.S. Unfortunately, multiple unknown parties have started illegally releasing wild hogs in Indiana for sport and a small clandestine hunting industry is growing around these animals.
“What’s the problem?” you might ask. I did, but once I knew the facts, my opinion changed 180 degrees. If you’re a farmer, conservationist or outdoors enthusiast who loves hunting or hiking the forest, there is nothing to love about wild hogs in Indiana.
“Hogs eat everything,” said well-known Martinsville outdoor writer Alan Garbers during our recent interview on the controversial subject
Alan is something of an expert, having covered the story for several publications. He has even hunted hogs on private property in southern Indiana. I interviewed Alan not because I couldn’t get information from state officials but because the agencies charged with solving the problem are notoriously tight-lipped. I’ll have more on that later.
The primary problem with wild hogs is pretty simple: they are highly intelligent, highly reproductive eating-machines. Once loose in the countryside they quickly become a major nuisance and headache for everyone. If you consider the locust-like herds of 100-plus animals roaming and devastating the Texas countryside, you have an idea of what could happen in food-rich forests and fields of Indiana.
In the forest, “anything that produces an egg on the ground, hogs are going to destroy,” Alan explained while discussing the long list of negatives. “They are fantastic at finding things. Your turkey population’s gonna go, any fawns they can find, they’re gonna eat those, grouse, anything!” He also pointed out the danger to another woodland favorite popular with both Hoosiers and hogs, noting “they’ll home right in on sponge (morel) mushrooms and there won’t be anything to find next year.”
For farmers, wild hogs are tremendously destructive, destroying pastures and planted fields overnight with the their aggressive feeding that makes the area look like it was used for hand grenade practice. “They are more decimating than deer every thought about,” Alan noted.
Wild hogs can also spread both animal and human diseases that are difficult to control when there is a large population of potential vectors roaming the countryside. Just ask the cattle farmers and deer hunters in southeastern Indiana’s bovine tuberculosis control zone.
Being highly reproductive, they animals are very fast breeders that quickly overwhelm their habitat. They also have few enemies because the sows are legendary in their zeal to protect young piglets while the boars present a legitimate threat even to firearm-toting hunters; no self-respecting coyote or fox would ever consider trying to snatch up a juicy piglet.
With all the trouble that hogs bring, there isn’t any good reason to introduce them into Indiana. That’s why the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the United States Department of Agriculture and other agencies are working diligently to rid the state of this pest.
Though we disagree, officials have taken an unofficial “don’t ask, don’t tell, I was never here”-position towards the hog eradication efforts in Indiana. Their concern is simple and perhaps legitimate: more recognition of the hogs will create a greater demand for hog hunting while also causing problems for area landowners when “yahoos” show up and demand to hunt or, more commonly, just trespass on private property.
Alan also explained during our discussion that contrary to common belief, hunting is not a good control measure for hogs. It doesn’t really hurt the overall population but it does educate the surviving hogs and disperse them to other places. You might bag one or two but the remainder simply run away and become better at avoiding humans.
The state is primarily working to trap the hogs, a method that is fairly effective but exceptionally labor-intensive. Because hogs are so intelligent, trappers must work over a period of weeks to acclimate the animals to the traps before eventually springing a surprise on the whole group.
Unfortunately, a few folks not only disagree, they are actively sabotaging the effort. A small group of idiots continue to destroy the traps or work to keep the hogs away. In some cases, they have snuck in before the DNR and taken pigs to raise for dog training or as hunting stock. Once released in other areas, they continue to expand the problem.
“There is no good reason (for wild hogs in Indiana). If you want to hunt hogs, go down to Texas or someplace like that where it is too late,” Alan said.
We wholeheartedly agree.