Arkansas Game and Fish Commission officials say they are making progress in controlling feral hogs, which do an estimated $19 million damage annually to row crops in the state. Officials told a legislative subcommittee Thursday that the state game officers' practice of increasing trapping since 2014 has led to a 250 percent increase in the number of recorded feral pigs being captured and killed.
Game and Fish Director Jeff Crow said controlling the population of feral pigs has important ramifications.
“This is much larger than a wildlife issue, this is a state issue. It impacts our economy, agriculture, forestry, quality-of-life, water quality. It runs the gamut of the negative impacts that this non-native invasive species has on our landscape,” Crow said.
In July, the Game and Fish Commission adopted regulations forbidding hunters from recreationally killing hogs on most public lands after they said it was proven to be an ineffective means of controlling or eliminating the population. Wildlife Management Chief Brad Carner said in the 2014 fiscal year, the agency had trapped 789 hogs. In the 2015 fiscal year, it had trapped 2,039 feral hogs. He said that in some areas, the agency had documented the capture of nearly 80 percent of the feral pig population.
Some legislators took issue with the requirements of Act 1104 of 2013 which say property owners who have their domesticated hogs escape must notify adjacent property owners within 15 days. The law also says property owners who find a feral hog on their property are required to kill the animal or transport it to a certified facility to be killed. The law says a hog is defined as feral six days after escaping a holding pen.
“I would love for some enterprising attorney to take you guys on in court and have you define the difference between a feral hog and a tame hog based on captivity,” said Rep. Nate Bell, an independent from Mena.
“If a feral hog becomes feral because of its status, why does that hog when it is back in captivity—since it’s physiologically not any different—be required to be killed when the same hog is just fine as long as its never escaped?” Bell asked.
“I believe these hogs have to be marked. They have to have an identification tag on them—an ear tag or a tattoo or what have you,” responded Colonel Pat Fitts of the AGFC Enforcement Division.
The AGFC officials said out of the nearly 13,000 citations and 18,000 warnings the agency has issued over the last 3 year, 10 citations were for violations of the feral hog statute passed in 2013.
Chronic Wasting Disease
As of this week, 108 confirmed cases of Chronic Wasting Disease have been found in Arkansas’s deer and elk population. The disease, which has no cure and is 100 percent fatal, was first found in Arkansas on February 17. Deer Program Coordinator Cory Gray told legislators that during the upcoming hunting season, the state agency will be working with hunters in a 10-county management zone in northern Arkansas to better monitor the spread.
“Our intent is to operate 25 check stations at least [during] that opening weekend of modern gun season in November. We will have staff operating these locations. We’ve advertised in our hunting guidebook. We’re asking hunters to bring deer. This will be a voluntary submission, not mandatory. We will collect samples and we’ll also work with hunting clubs in that area for kind of a gap surveillance to try to fill in some voids,” said Gray.
Gray said 1,749 samples of deer and elk have been tested for Chronic Wasting Disease with most samples coming back negative. Many of the tests come from road kill, he said.