Starting July 1, wild hogs will become part of Mississippi’s beaver control program.
Lawmakers approved and Gov. Phil Bryant signed legislation that expands the program to include both nuisance animals.
An existing advisory board administered by the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and commerce will be expanded to include those impacted by wild hogs’ behavior – which is destructive by any measure.
“They affect everything,” said deputy commissioner of agriculture Andy Prosser. “Farmers, homeowners, golf courses, the timber industry, they get everybody in some form or fashion. And the population is growing. They’re never going to go away but this is about starting the conversation among the affected parties about the best way to manage them.”
Prosser said the problems the animals present have grown as their population has increased. And, most of those issues are economic.
Wild hogs can destroy a crop overnight, devastate the ecosystem needed to support a timber tract, dig out a road bed, compromise a levee, destroy a home’s foundation and make a golf course look like a minefield. Repairing the damage they do can be financially crippling. Mississippi’s agricultural industry has been at the center of the destruction, as grain crops have become more popular because of their lower input costs and more stable market prices.
Putting a figure on exactly how much economic mayhem they’ve wrought in Mississippi will likely be included in the advisory board’s job description, once members take up the issue after July 1, Prosser said.
“But you and I both know it’s in the millions of dollars,” Prosser said. “It’s that significant.”
The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks says wild hogs populations are growing because of they reproduce often and can survive in virtually any habitat. They also lack any natural predators.
Wild hogs are crafty, too, making them difficult to corner and kill. Their razor-like tusks and aggression when cornered can make them dangerous to pursue.
Mississippi is one of several states to already have on the books laws that make it illegal to import or transport live wild hogs or to release them into the wild. Penalties for doing so include a maximum $5,000 fine and five days in jail.
Recent research by MDWFP suggests that to keep the existing population from expanding beyond control, 70 percent of wild hogs have to be removed annually. The wildlife agency does not offer a bounty on wild hogs, but does encourage landowners to kill them at every opportunity, offering only minimal restrictions on doing so.
Wildlife and Fisheries recently created the Mississippi Wild Hog Task Force made up on several state and federal agencies, private entities and commercial producers from affected industries. The task force’s goal is to educate the public about the negative impact wild hogs have and to develop policies that minimize their damage. It was unclear earlier this week what role that initiative will have in the new state program.
Prosser said folding wild hogs into the existing beaver control program has not been funded yet. The advisory board will determine how much it will cost to do so before releasing an estimate, he said.
“We don’t really want to put a number out there until we have a better idea of what kind of policies will be implemented and have a better idea of what they’re going to cost to carry out,” Prosser said.
The House bill adding wild hogs to the beaver control program is House Bill 1260.