Carol Sanders | School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences
A real nuisance that’s only getting worse is feral swine, an invasive species of prolific breeders that produce two litters of 4 -12 piglets every 12 – 15 months. The more than 6 million in 35 states including Arkansas, damage property (landscape, golf courses, recreational fields, cemeteries, parks and lawns), agriculture (crops and livestock), native species, ecosystems, and historical and cultural sites.
Their damage is in the billions of dollars. Not only do they thrive in rural areas, they have also adapted to suburban and urban areas, said Mike Hoy, Arkansas Feral Swine Program coordinator. Feral swine carry numerous parasites and diseases, and hunting has not been successful in getting rid of them.
Dr. Henry English, head of the Small Farm Program at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) agrees with Hoy that hunting has not been successful. Most successful in reducing local populations are remotely triggered traps, said Hoy.
Federal and state agencies are partnering to reduce the number of feral swine on private
lands through coordinated efforts, known as the Feral Swine Initiative. Partnering agencies include the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts (AACD), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) and USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services.
Reducing the number of feral swine in Arkansas is the ultimate goal, said Dr. English.
NRCS will assist landowners in the monitoring and surveillance of feral swine in eight pilot counties – Arkansas, Chicot, Desha, Drew, Pope, Searcy, Sevier and Yell and with improving habitats after feral swine removal. The pilot project will also assist qualifying landowners with the purchase and maintenance of equipment necessary to monitor feral swine populations.
AGFC and USDA-APHIS are helping landowners develop a control program and coordinate efforts with adjacent landowners. The also have trapping equipment for short term loan and demonstration as does the AACD. Conservation districts are providing administrative and program support for the swine initiative.
Traps with camera systems are expensive, said Dr. English.
Feral swine usually live in family groups, and a couple of families travel together. The goal is to trap entire families or sounders of swine. Once the trap is set and the camera turned on, it sends a text when families enter the trap. The landowner can then remotely close the door trapping the sounders.
Landowners needing help in ridding their fields of feral swine and interested in the feral swine initiative should contact their local conservation district for initial consultation and resource guidance or go to where they will find all district information.