Problem pigs in Kentucky

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By Rick Greenwell

Some of you may have been reading about the threat feral hogs pose to our county and Central Kentucky.

Once you read the following article you may feel about these wild pigs like most of us feel about “Arkansas Razor Backs or Kansas!”  This information comes from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife and it is very informative.
“What on earth has happened to my land?  It looks like a tiller has come through!”  
Hopefully most of you will never have to ask this question, but regrettably for landowners in a growing number of Kentucky counties this question is being asked. The culprit...wild pigs. The first sign may not have been a rooted field or food plot, but rather a trampled crop, a wallowed pond, a trail camera picture, or even a spoiled hunt. When wild pigs move in, the sign is destructive and abundant.    
Wild pigs are an exotic pest posing serious ecological, economic and disease threats. Specifically, damage to habitat and wildlife can be severe, including impacts to forest regeneration, natural soil processes, stream bank erosion, water quality degradation and direct competition with and predation on native wildlife.  This begs the question, “Why are they here?”
This species has been present throughout much of the southeastern United States since the 1500’s, descendants of domestic pigs accompanying early European explores. However, populations of wild pigs have only begun to emerge in Kentucky in the last two decades. Clear disconnections between emerging wild pig populations have made it apparent that natural population expansion is not solely responsible. Rather, many of these populations have been created through illegal releases in an attempt by misguided individuals to create a recreational hunting opportunity. Unfortunately, once populations are established damage is often unavoidable, habitat and native wildlife suffers, and control can prove difficult.
However, all is not lost if you’re experiencing wild pig damage. The KDFWR considers wild pig control a management priority and encourages cooperative efforts between impacted landowners, our agency, and other stakeholders to ensure effective control in protecting the land and wildlife we’re all invested in. The KDFWR promotes effective pig management by offering guidance and assistance with control, maintaining a focus on removal through trapping, including the offering of a trap cost-share program. Thankfully, the most effective means of removing wild pigs is also inexpensive relative to the losses associated with pig damage.
The KDFWR recommends the use of baited corral traps on an ongoing basis. This tactic will simultaneously accomplish several management goals, removing multiple pigs in a single capture occasion, often removing an entire sounder (term for a group of pigs), and concentrating removal efforts on female pigs across all age classes. Effective control demands the removal of female pigs to decrease population growth. Unfortunately, removal efforts often rely too heavily on hunting, which is incapable of removing enough pigs to outpace reproduction in established populations. Chiefly, juvenile pigs regularly escape removal via hunting and may reproduce at only six months of age.
Effective wild pig control is a dynamic and ongoing process. The key is being adaptive; implementing the most effective control strategy at the right time. While I hope most Kentucky landowners will never experience wild pig damage, if you’d like more information on wild pig control or the trap cost-share program contact a wildlife biologist at 1-800-858-1549.