Friday, April 1, 2016

Deer Hunters Face Competition From Feral Hogs


FoxNews.com posted the above picture, provided by LouisianaBowhunter.com, which shows a herd of wild hogs totting away a deer fawn.

The picture sums up what deer hunters face from feral hogs, wild pigs. The unwanted competition from the feral hog explosion is truly being felt by deer hunters as deer herds thin out.

The feral hogs, also known as wild hogs, wild pigs, or feral pigs, are said to be mean, relentless, and out of control. Besides their effect as predators on livestock, their destruction of farming and ranching property, tearing up the landscape and overrunning a number of areas, the explosion of feral hogs across the United States is threatening the deer population -- and in more ways than one.  

Feral pigs are considered an exotic and invasive species. They cause extensive damage to agricultural lands and other environments. The rooting feeding behavior of pigs destroys native plant species which disrupts natural plant communities. These disturbances can allow exotic plant species to become established which further negatively impacts the native plant communities. 

This rooting also creates areas of erosion, especially near stream banks, which in turn can impact the water quality making life harder for aquatic wildlife. Pigs living in the wild compete with the native wildlife for food, water, cover and space. Deer, bears, turkeys, foxes, bobcats, and raccoons are just a few examples of animals that compete with wild hogs for resources.

From up north in Michigan and down across the deep south, east to Florida and west to Texas, Arizona and California, wild pigs can adapt to a wide range of habitats. All while they have a high reproductive rate, two litters of 4-14 piglets a year, and have few natural predators which makes them hard to control. 

Known predators of wild pigs include black bears, mountain lion, bobcats, coyotes, and owls, all of which are unable to keep pig populations in check. Because of this the out of control hogs are also spreading disease, dominating the food chain, and are also killing and eating fawns. 

In Louisiana, where there are an estimated 700,000 wild hogs, hunters and wildlife officials say they are taking a toll on the whitetail deer herd.

"They are in the marshes and beaches of Louisiana all the way up into the hills and piney woods and swamps," Jim LaCour, state wildlife veterinarian for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, told FoxNews.com. "They’re in every habitat in the state."

LaCour described the feral pigs, which can weigh up to 500 pounds, as "opportunistic" eaters. They are omnivores that feast on anything crossing their path, including deer fawn, other piglets and dead animals. 

 LaCour said they’re very adaptable and also highly destructive. He also stated that hogs carry many diseases, such as leptospirosis, which can infect or kill other animals, like deer, as well as humans.

"Hogs are the sport utility vehicle for disease and parasites -- they move them across the landscape," he said. "That bacteria [leptospirosis] can cause abortion in the deer -- and it can kill adult deer or people."

Their presence is also detrimental to the land, forcing wildlife officials to carry out aerial gunning in certain areas "because they tear up the marsh and that leads to coastal erosion."

Hogs were first introduced to North America by Spanish settlers. The breed most commonly seen in Texas is a mixture of those hogs and Russian boars brought over more recently for sport hunting, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Some speculate the population boom is due to relatively recent cross-breeding in the wild. Others, like LaCour, say the popularity of hog hunting in the 1980's and early 1990's led humans to move the feral pigs from confined, geographically isolated areas into places they had never been before.

Wild hogs can reproduce by the time they are 6 months old. Feral sows can have two litters per year averaging six piglets per litter, according to wildlife experts. Statisticians have determined that 75 percent of the population must be harvested to maintain a static population -- prompting Louisiana and other states to adopt liberal hunting policies when it comes to killing the hogs. Texas has the highest rate of feral hog.

For deer hunter Justin Lanclos, the very sighting of a feral pig means trouble.

"If you start to see hogs in your hunting area, you are absolutely not going to see deer," said Lanclos, a 33-year-old bowhunter from Sulthur, Louisiana.

"Deer are extremely smart and elusive," Lanclos told FoxNews.com. "They just don’t like to occupy the same area as hogs."

Lanclos, the owner of retailer Louisiana Bowhunter, said he recently received a photo showing a herd of hogs -- or sounder -- running off with a whitetail fawn. The image, believed to have been taken in Louisiana, has since gone viral on social media.

"We’ve got other photos of feral hogs carrying fawns," noted LaCour. "If the hogs are coming through a field and they happen to come across it, they’re going to eat it."

As for risks to hunters, it should be remembered that boars have four extremely sharp tusks up to five inches long. Just like other wildlife, feral hogs will be most active at dawn and dusk.

Wild pigs have great senses and because of this their hearing and smell will generally give them warning of your presence. They are know to avoid contact with humans.

But, if you see a pig and are not prepared to shoot it -- then keep a safe distance especially if piglets are present. Attacks on humans occur at the highest rate in the winter months during daylight hours and appeared to be unprovoked. By comparison the risk during summer appears lower.

Of the 21 states with reported violent incidents, the most cases in the United States came from Texas, Florida, and South Carolina. But understand this, it's not only in rural areas anymore. Clashes with wild hogs in suburban and urban areas have been on the rise since the mid-1990s.

While it is known that hunters, hikers, photographers, and other outdoor enthusiasts have been attacked, there are things we can do if confronted with the threat. For example, if you come face to face with an unfriendly feral, it is recommended that your best option to defend yourself is to climb the nearest tree, boulder, car, truck, to get at least 6 feet off of the ground because large pigs can somewhat "walk" up a tree trunk with their front legs.

If you are deer hunting and a pig charges, shoot it!  If you are a hiker and you are unarmed, it is recommended that you try to avoid its tusks anyway possible through shielding yourself behind a tree or using anything you have to keep it away from you. 

If it becomes a situation where you can't shoot and can't escape, remember that while fighting back try to remain standing. While it is said that attacks on humans are "usually" over in under one minute, people who fall or are knocked to the ground can sustain more serious injuries. 

Yes, this all sounds like another reason to be armed even if just hiking or taking pictures of the great outdoors along some trail somewhere.

Lastly, keep in mind that feral hogs are mainly found in forested areas where the trees and vegetation provide them shelter and food. But also, remembers that they can also be found in marshes or swamps as well as in pastures and farmlands.

Knowing that they can be found just about anywhere in at least 40 states, we should respect that fact that there is a real good chance that your favorite deer hunting area could be home to these invasive beasts.

So please, hunting or not, be armed and stay safe in the outdoors. And if hunting, be safe and don't take any chances as feral hogs may be present and competing with you for the same deer.

And yes, that's the way I see it.
Tom Correa

11 comments:

  1. Hello Tom,
    Deer is very beautiful animal in this world. But unfortunately most of the animal like to hunting Deer. Go my site to know more about Deer. In this picture the Hogs hunting a baby deer which is very cruel. But all over nice post this one.

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  6. Great post. It gives me more helpful information about feral hogs. I am a hunter and it helps me a lot. Thanks for sharing nice picture. I am waiting for your next article. Good luck

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  7. Nice post. Your article helps me understand a lot of information in this field. Thank you !!!

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