Feral hogs, often called wild hogs, are a threat in the Arkansas outdoors, and the situation may be getting worse instead of better.
Under some pressure from legislators, the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission has presented proposals for watered-down restrictions on feral hogs.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, under some pressure from people wanting to chase and hunt hogs year-round on wildlife management areas, has proposed to close some of these areas to public use outside of hunting seasons, while trapping efforts are under way.
And many Arkansans, especially hog-affected landowners, are still waiting for a concentrated and statewide assault on these destructive animals. We sometimes hear the term "feral hog eradication," but most everyone realizes the pests won’t ever be eliminated. Reduction of numbers is the goal.
Under Arkansas law, all hogs, feral and domestic, are subjects of the Livestock and Poultry Commission.
Feral hogs are not game animals, so the Game and Fish Commission has no authority over them except on lands it owns — the wildlife management areas. The same situation applies to national wildlife refuges.
Feral hogs on private lands are subject to landowner wishes and actions in line with the Livestock and Poultry rules.
Two groups of people are in conflict about feral hogs. One are those who are affected by the destruction the animals do. This can be massive destruction to crop and grazing land and to wildlife. The other group, much smaller in number, are the people who want to "hog hunt" as a sport and the handful of people who want to make a profit from catering to "hog hunters."
Quotation marks are around "hog hunt" because it is not a recognized and official form of hunting in our state.
According to state officials, there are four businesses in Arkansas currently offering "hog hunts" for fees. Unofficially and undocumented are individuals who do this clandestinely — release hogs in national forests and on timber land, often at night, then guide people to go after them — again, for a fee.
Arkansas law makes it a felony to release feral hogs into the wild. But it still happens, according to officials with several agencies.
The Livestock and Poultry Commission’s director is Preston Scroggin, former Faulkner Country judge. Scroggin told a legislative committee that his agency wants to soften requirements on fencing for "hog hunt" operations, to ease restrictions on fencing and to limit transportation of feral hogs to daylight hours.
Transporting feral hogs is banned completely in several states surrounding Arkansas.
The conflict over feral hogs on wildlife management areas is over some people wanting to use dogs to chase and shoot the hogs outside of regulated hunting seasons. On most management areas, the rule is feral hogs can be shot during open hunting seasons and only with weapons allowed for those hunting seasons. But Game and Fish personnel tell of incidents like people posing as squirrel hunters and running dogs equipped with canvas jackets — apparently for protection from hogs.
Meanwhile, hog-trapping efforts are being intensified on the wildlife management areas.
Game and Fish people say trapping, not shooting, is the effective method of reducing feral hog numbers. Their counterparts in neighboring states make this same statement.
Outdoor writer Joe Mosby can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.