FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Missouri takes an aggressive approach to feral hog removal due to the potential for significant threats to the state’s $10.5 billion agriculture, wildlife and recreation industries.
As one piece of a multi-agency task force called the Missouri Feral Hog Elimination Partnership, Fort Leonard Wood is doing its part to help. This summer, the milestone mark of 2,000 feral hogs removed on post was reached.
Feral hogs, or wild hogs, are similar to domestic pigs. They are generally thinner, have longer courser hair, longer legs and longer heads. They reproduce rapidly — up to two litters per year and an average of four to six piglets per litter — and populations can grow quickly. It is estimated that up to 75 percent of the installation’s feral hogs must be removed annually just to keep the population stable.
Feral hogs are considered by many to be America’s most destructive invasive animal species. Estimates of their damage in the U.S. range up to $2.5 billion per year.
They can cause significant damage to agricultural crops by consuming them or destroying them through their rooting, trampling and wallowing behaviors. They can also spread disease pathogens to domestic livestock resulting in lower productivity, illness or death.
Feral swine are known to carry at least 30 viral and bacterial diseases and nearly 40 parasites that can be transmitted to humans, pets, livestock and other wildlife. Some harmful organisms and pathogens carried by feral swine can infect humans, including diseases such as leptospirosis, toxoplasmosis, brucellosis, tularemia, trichinellosis, swine influenza, salmonella, hepatitis and pathogenic E. coli. Other risks posed by feral swine to people include attacks on individuals or collisions with automobiles on roads and aircraft on runways.
Feral hogs also compete directly with native wildlife for food, habitat and water. They eat large quantities of acorns, berries, and other foods necessary to sustain native wildlife through the winter. Feral hogs are opportunistic feeders and will destroy the nests of ground nesting bird and reptile species and have been documented to kill and eat small mammals, snakes, frogs, lizards and even deer fawns. Hogs also like to wallow in shallow puddles or on the edge of larger water sources to regulate their body temperature, impacting water quality and health.
First observed on the installation in 1997, feral hogs were removed via an aggressive trapping program to the point where none were observed between 2004 and 2012.
In 2012, hogs were detected again on the installation. The population increased, and in 2015, Fort Leonard Wood contracted with USDA Wildlife Services to provide a full-time professional trapper to remove feral hogs on the installation.
Although many people believe feral hogs expanded their range onto Fort Leonard Wood and other areas of Missouri naturally, most feral hogs are descendants of domestic animals that escaped or were released into the wild. Recent genetic work has shown samples taken from Fort Leonard Wood indicated animals only being in the wild for one or two generations.
Feral hogs can be taken legally by licensed deer hunters on Fort Leonard Wood during the open season. Report sightings on the installation directly to the USDA trapper at 573.247.3614.