DREW COUNTY (KATV) - Farmers and wildlife officials all over the country, including right here in Arkansas, are in the middle of a frustrating battle with feral pigs.
Arkansas's rapidly growing feral hog population is cutting a destructive path through the state. It's a huge problem... one that AR Game and Fish wildlife biologists are desperate to get under control.
As razorback fans... we idolize these creatures... but there are herds of feral pigs going hog wild in Arkansas... and it's nothing to cheer about.
They're wreaking havoc on our state's natural habitat... competing with other animals, like deer, for food... uprooting plants, and decimating farm crops.
David Goad, AR Game and Fish Chief of Wildlife Management says "Cattle farmers. Row crop farmers. They'll plant their corn and the hogs go right down the row getting the seeds out of the ground. Something's gonna have to be done quickly."
Farmers across the South are trapping and killing hogs like these to keep them from devouring their livelihood, but it's a never-ending problem. Feral pigs, when fully grown, can reach as high as 300 to 400-pounds if there's a good food supply...and they multiply rapidly.
Goad says "It's unruly what they can do. They have three litters a year. By the time the third litter's born, the first can actually have a litter."
The hogs tend to run in herds, and there's almost nothing to stop them. We visited the Cutoff Creek State Wildlife Management Area in Drew County with David Goad of AR Game and Fish. He says wildlife biologists are working overtime to trap....and kill feral hogs.
"They will not leave here alive. The only good feral hog is a dead feral hog." says Goad.
Beth asks, "is there any specific area of the state where this is a bigger problem than others?" Goad says, "Right where you're at. South Arkansas. It's a horrible problem, but they're spreading north. I would guess there's pigs in every county in the state now."
To help reduce the population, state officials encourage hunters to shoot any feral hogs they see while hunting other species, and they don't even have to haul away the carcasses.
Long time hog hunter Joe Beatty says, "We hunted hogs when very few people ever hunted hogs. It just got more and more popular, and hogs got diversified everywhere. They're everywhere now. They do a lot of damage to the woods. They're pretty destructive."
Joe Beatty and his son, Brad, have been hunting hogs for years. They unload their dogs.. and then hit the woods.
Brad Beatty says, "Just the thrill of the hunt. When the dogs bark and they bay. It's just exciting to watch them work the hog... and then... take him out."
For the beattys... this is a family tradition, but other hunters have turned hog hunting into big business... actually moving the animals around.. trapping and then releasing the them... to continue the sport. David Goad says these types of hunters, are making the problem even worse.
"They catch them and move them to places that are not there to get them to populate. Where they can perpetuate their sport of hog hunting."
The AR Game and Fish Commission wants to introduce tougher penalties in the state Legislature this year... making it illegal to transport and release feral hogs.
Goad says, "That's how we're going to help ourselves and help the state...and that's to stop the transport and illegal release of them."
Goad says they're not trying to stop the hunting of feral hogs on private property, but they are trying to stop the spread of them.
Game and Fish has a big job ahead to educate the public about the problems feral hogs cause... and they insist... die hard hog fans - have nothing to worry about.
Beth says "This is kind of ironic you know.. this is the state of the razorbacks and the hogs."
Goad answers, "Well, our legislation has an exception in there for Tusk. we've taken care of him."