By Jay Mann, Public Affairs SpecialistJune 17, 2016
(Editor's note: This is the third in a series of articles dealing with the feral hog population explosion on post.)
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (June 17, 2016) -- While Fort Rucker's feral hog population explosion may be a boon to hunters and a calamity to the environment, under the right circumstances, it could also pose a threat to Soldiers, family members, employees or visitors to the post.
With individual adult hogs weighing in at anywhere from 60 to 300 pounds, a close encounter with these the wild animals could turn dangerous in a heartbeat, according to Fort Rucker Natural Resources Branch Chief Doug Watkins.
"I would encourage everyone on Fort Rucker to avoid them if at all possible," said Watkins, adding that people shouldn't approach them or try to entice them with food. "If you encounter a group of hogs, just back away, and never place yourself between the young hogs and the adults."
"Fortunately, we have not received any reports of people being attacked," said Daniel Spillers, Fish and Wildlife Biologist. "Our main concern is that you have (some Soldiers in training) out in the woods crawling around on their stomachs at night -- it could happen very easily."
The feral hogs won't seek out people to attack, explained Spillers, but they could do some serious damage if cornered or if they feel their young are threatened. "You never want to try to pet the baby pigs, or be aggressive towards them. Feral hogs have large teeth or tusks that can do a lot of damage."
Spillers added that the hogs, in general, are afraid of humans and will look for a way to escape if there is an encounter.
If people encounter a group of feral hogs in a housing area or near the common areas on Fort Rucker, they should call the military police or game warden, added Watkins.
People should also avoid damaged areas where the hogs have been rooting, said Watkins. "Do not let your children sit down and play in the dirt in these areas."
Fort Rucker has reached a pivotal point where the feral hog population, after 20 years of growth, has become a threat to the local environment, and not just an inconvenience Watkins added.
Trapping is really the only proven effective method, said Watkins. "We have a trapping program that we administer through the natural resources branch where people can come in and sign up with us to be a volunteer trapper."
Watkins added that with the community's support, the population of hogs on Fort Rucker can be managed.
"Estimates say that you need to take 80 percent of the population each year just to keep up with the population growth. That is a tremendous amount when you are talking thousands of hogs," said Spillers, adding that this isn't the only area in the country with a feral hog problem.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there are over 4 million feral hogs located across 36 states in the U.S. In the western portion of the country, the land is more open and people can more efficiently hunt them by helicopter, but in this area, where there is more forested terrain, hunters might get one hog and be done.
"There are many city-, county- and state-run programs to assist private land owners with trapping costs and information. The level of assistance people can get depends on where in the U.S. they are living and what programs are available in their area," said Spillers.
Watkins explained that Fort Rucker is working closely with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the federal agency that specializes in the removal of problem wildlife.
"We have had them here on numerous occasions and we are following the recommended plan for Fort Rucker closely. We have consulted with Auburn University and various other biologists in the local area to develop the best strategy for combating this problem."
"People can help by reporting if they see feral hogs in the housing areas or anywhere on post," said Watkins. The military police can be reached at 255-2222, and the Game Warden at 255-4213/4735.
People interested in becoming a volunteer trapper can call the natural resources branch at 255-9368.