- Associated Press - Friday, June 6, 2014

FLORENCE, Ala. (AP) - Spry Mitchell said feral hogs are out of control.

He should know.

Mitchell farms 300 acres in the Seven Mile Island Refuge area in addition to his cattle operation. He said he has experienced several thousand dollars in damages by feral hogs rooting up his freshly planted crops.

“They are indigenous to this area, don’t have a predator and have no natural enemy,” Mitchell said. “I assume they were brought here and turned loose and that’s how they got started. They are terribly prolific.”

The hogs root with their nose and tusk, and can uproot entire rows of freshly planted corn. They can eat crops whether the crops are in the growing stage or have reached maturity.

According to Spenser Bradley - a regional extension agent covering forestry, wildlife and natural resource management - there are a few pockets of the wild hogs in north Alabama, including at the bend of the river. He said there also are a few pockets in Morgan County.

“They are not very widespread, but where they are they can do a lot of damage,” Bradley said. “People see them as kind of a novelty here because they see them on hunting shows. People get excited about hunting them. But they don’t realize how big a problem they are in places like south Alabama and Texas.”

Bradley, who is based in Morgan County but also works in the Shoals, said the hogs not only can uproot and eat crops, but they can leave huge holes in the field that can damage equipment.

Mitchell said last year the hogs destroyed 80 to 90 acres of his corn crop. Earlier this planting season, they destroyed 20 to 30 acres.

“We have a couple of game wardens aware of the situation, and they are trying to trap as many of them as they can,” Mitchell said. “We’re doing as much as we can so they won’t run rampant, shooting them, trapping them, anything we can do to get rid of them.”

After losing his corn, Mitchell has replanted with soybeans.

“I’m interested to see what they do with the soybean crop,” Mitchell said. “Hopefully, they won’t bother them as bad. It’s not just this year that they’ve been a problem. You can replant a crop after they’ve destroyed it, and they’ll do the same thing.”

James Walker, who also farms near the refuge, said he has had problems with the hogs for several years. “We try to trap them or shoot them, just trying to control them. They’re a real nuisance when it comes to crops. They’ll eat corn, beans, wheat and they also are a detriment to other wildlife.

“I hunt deer and deer won’t get anywhere around them because of all the squealing and noise they make.”

Walker said the hogs have been a problem for at least 10 years.

“We don’t know how to keep them in check until the wildlife conservation office can do something - we’ll just have to trap them and shoot them. I’ve heard that LSU has come up with a chemical that will kill them, but that’s still in the works.”

Walker said the wild hogs run in herds.

“They’re definitely a major problem,” Walker said. “They’ll go down a row with their nose and root every seed up. And they are a detriment to cattle farmers as well because they will root up a pasture. They’re just a nuisance.”

Daniel Toole, a wildlife biologist over the refuge, said the hog problem has been ongoing for 15 years or more.

“The hogs have been here for a while,” Toole said. “They started in the bend of the river, and we’ve had huge problems in the management area. There are also some on Lauderdale 8 and in the Wright community. We list them as a game animal because we have to, but they’re really just a pest.”

Toole said the hogs can be trapped and hunted on private land, but not in the management area.

“The only possible way to get rid of them is to trap them and shoot them,” Toole said. “They also can carry diseases.”

Toole said outdooralabama.com has information on building traps and hunting the hogs.

“They are legal to hunt year round on private or leased property,” Toole said. “They are a very prolific species, and we have to eradicate 70 percent of them each year just to keep the population under control.”

Bradley said the hogs can have up to two litters each year, with 10 to 12 hogs per litter.

“The best thing we tell farmers to do is to set up a trapping program where they can trap 15 to 20 all at once,” Bradley said.

Once caught and killed, Bradley said, the hogs are good to eat.

“You have to be careful with them and get the temperature up to 160 degrees to kill any disease they might have, but they are very good to eat,” he said. “They are much leaner than regular hogs.”

Barry Baird, biologist at the Black Warrior Wildlife Management Area in Bankhead Forest, said he hopes hunters can take advantage of hunting the hogs and help reduce the feral population there.

“They are a real nuisance,” Baird said. “The more hunters can remove from the forest, the better.”

Bradley said the conservation office will visit a farm to help suggest ways on setting up a trap for the hogs. For more information, call 256-303-4924.

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Information from: TimesDaily, https://www.timesdaily.com/

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