Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

State Agriculture Department Takes on Oklahoma's Feral Swine Problem

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

State Agriculture Department Takes on Oklahoma's Feral Swine Problem

Article excerpt

The state Agriculture Department has started a feral swine directory to match hunters and trappers with landowners who need help in controlling the destructive hogs.

Feral swine can now be found in all of the state's 77 counties, state authorities said. The animals are omnivorous and will eat nearly anything, including cultivated crops, quail and kid goats. And as they seek out food, the hogs will trample other vegetation and destroy property, state Veterinarian Rod Hall said.

A wandering family of swine can devour an entire melon field before harvest, for example, and knock over cemetery tombstones while they root. Property and crop damages are estimated in hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, officials said.

"The problem continues to grow," Hall said. "To put it bluntly, we're not killing enough to prevent the population from growing. Research indicates that we would have to eliminate 70 percent of the feral swine on the ground at any time to keep that population static."

The pigs, which have no natural predators, can breed three times a year, produce litters of up to 12 piglets each, and start reproducing as early as six months of age.

"Our hope is that this directory will help us eliminate more. We could be optimistic and hope that we could get enough people interested in killing them to bring their growth into balance, but to be honest that's probably not going to happen," he said.

The Wildlife Department defines feral hogs as any swine, including Russian and European wild boar, that are running at large and whose owners are unknown. Many of the swine in Oklahoma now are believed to be the offspring of breeding stock that were initially brought into the state for hunting parties.

Rural property owners have turned feral swine into a business opportunity. Mark Palmatary at P-H Farms Boar Hunting Ranch LLC said he decided to turn his 100 acres in Pawnee into a hunting preserve for hogs in 2005 to take advantage of the growing resource. Now he buys feral swine from trappers in other parts of the state to stay well-stocked. He probably won't need the new directory because hunters already seek out his ranch, Palmatary said. …

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