On the hunt for feral pigs
The following story was written by KOSU’s Quinton Chandler.
For several decades, feral hogs have been a thorn in the sides of Oklahoma Landowners. A thorn they say needs removing. During the spring months, hunters from all over come to areas of rural Oklahoma trapping and killing to their hearts’ delight, and they barely make a dent in pig numbers. It seems everyone believes a dead hog is a good hog, which is why a new law gives hunters one more weapon for their hog-slaying arsenal…
“They’ve just come across our property and just dug really gigantic holes in the property; in the ground they made big ruts. My husband had to get a box blade and smooth the ground back over.”
Lisa Henry makes her home in Ardmore. Hogs worried her and her neighbors so much, she started looking for pig hunters online.
“We were kind of scared because, we’re in city limits and we saw eight all in that big group or whatever their called. Where they rooted was pretty close to our backyard so it was kind of scary to think that they were there and we both had dogs that could be hurt.”
For Lisa, the pigs are mostly annoying. But for farmers and ranchers they cost….
“Thousands of dollars in agricultural losses, they plow up fields, for someone that’s in the hay bailing business it just makes for a horrible environment. If you are crib feeding cattle these animals feed on the feed.”
These pigs are like a real life Tasmanian Devil from the Looney Tunes… Ok that’s exaggerating a bit, but seriously they’re out of control and they ruin everything they touch. That’s why State Senator Josh Brechen proposed the Judas pig tracking bill during the legislature’s last session.
“It’s to allow landowners to put a radio collared device on a wild feral hog. That pig will then go back to the herd, thus the name Judas pig tracking device.”
State Representative Don Armes supported the bill in the House.
“We’ve tried to figure out every way in the world to reduce their numbers and this Judas pig tracking device is a pretty good way to do that. You know where that herd is so you can get in there and do some eradication.”
The thing is, right now nobody seems to know of any hunters who are actually using trackers. The idea probably sounded good in Congress but the guy getting down in the dirt isn’t making pit stops at radio shack.
“You’re going to wind up losing a high dollar locator, usually, or your going to take that chance. But yeah we’ve done that before and you don’t gain a whole lot by it,” says Terry Wagoner.
“Trapping them is the best way to eliminate them. Your catching them in numbers. There’s a lot of times I’ll trap 25-30 hogs at one time in one trap. Whereas, if your trying to hunt them or shoot them, or maybe chase them with dogs, you’re going to wind up with maybe one or two a night.”
Terry Wagoner’s been trapping hogs for twenty years. He says they’re smart and can work their way out of a tracker. After Terry traps a few hogs he sells them to slaughter houses and boar ranches. Mark Palmatary is on his list of clientele. He operates P-H Farms Boar Hunting Ranch in Pawnee.
“We mainly provide wild hog hunts, we are under fence. So basically we’re taking animals that are out of the wild and putting them in our facility as an end destination, basically the same as a slaughter house.”
Mark says he buys pigs from all over Oklahoma, from Antlers to Bartlesville to Cache and everywhere in between. I wanted a close look at a pig but when we went out to the ranch, we came up dry.
“Most of the hogs that are running lose, they’re very secretive. They can bury up in a brush pile and you won’t even know they’re there.”
That sound isn’t a live pig, it’s a just a recording hog hunters can use to attract their prey.
On an actual hunt, that’s the sound of money in Mark’s pocket. Sport hunters love the challenge of tracking a pig. Each year…
“I’d say anywhere from 500 to 1000.”
“Most of the people that we’ve had are from out of state. We do have a few Oklahoma hunters, we get a lot of northern hunters from Kansas, and Nebraska, and Iowa. We’ve had a group from South Africa…”
Let’s see 500 to 1000 hunters every year killing maybe one hog per trip…. That can add up, but it doesn’t change anything. Hogs are spread far and wide and no one really knows how many are out there.
“They’re very prolific, they can reproduce three times a year, they have anywhere from 5 to 12 baby pigs. I don’t know that there is an end all solution for the pig problem.”
Wild pigs are like hurricanes. Hunters cash in on the pork and farmers are stuck cleaning up where they wallow. Just like a certain hurricane that floods some states and then gives others a much needed drink.