In an agricultural state such as Arkansas, the substantial damage feral hogs do to row crops is well known, and the financial impact is easier to estimate. Most damage estimates, however, include only the crop itself, said Jennifer Caraway, staff chair for Miller County Cooperative Extension Service office.
The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
“We find that farmers also spend a lot of time and extra expense on replacing their crops and repairing their fields, fences and roads,” Caraway said. “And those costs are sometimes not considered.
The damage feral hogs do to pastureland, hay ground, wildlife habitat and water quality can be even more difficult to quantify. The hogs are also known to introduce and spread disease, she said.
Caraway has been helping landowners in southwestern Arkansas trap hogs successfully for the past four years, conducting multiple field demonstrations with participating farmers. Many of the producers who volunteer their land for the demonstrations have ultimately purchased their own trapping systems for controlling feral hogs on their property.
A statewide team of Cooperative Extension Service agents, working as part of the Arkansas Feral Hog Eradication Task Force, is available to assist with local efforts at educating landowners about ways to control feral hogs including using traps.
Currently, the most efficient traps are those using cellular service. An image or video is sent to a cell phone, from which the user can trigger the trap gate. The use of cellular systems helps users avoid trapping non-target species, such as raccoons and deer.
Becky McPeake, professor of wildlife extension for the Division of Agriculture, said the key to successfully reducing feral hog populations is to trap entire sounders of hogs. (A sounder is essentially a “herd” of pigs.) A feral hog that manages to avoid the trap may learn from the experience and will be more difficult to trap in the future.
“One of the difficulties with cellular traps is the human factor,” McPeake said. “The temptation to prematurely set the trigger is great. In some cases, feral hogs get spooked and leave the area, and all efforts at surveillance and pre-baiting are lost.”
“This is why educating producers on how to properly use the trap successfully is so important,” Caraway said.
In areas where cell phone coverage is not available, a pig-activated trigger system, such as using a tripwire or rooting stick, may be used. While this avoids the expense of the cellular systems, which typically cost about $8,000 or more, users are more likely to trap non-target species and fail to trap entire sounders.
McPeake said the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is now testing a new net trap that recently became available on the market.
“It’s portable and less expensive than fence panel traps,” McPeake said. “I’m looking forward to what Game and Fish has to say about this net system.”
Landowners who know they have feral hogs on their property can contact USDA APHIS Wildlife Services at 501-835-2318. They are leading the statewide effort at feral hog removal, one pig at a time.
Landowners wishing to learn how to use a cellular trapping system should contact their local extension agent, who can arrange for a demonstration and assistance.