Over the past several years, the reintroduction of some wildlife into our Tennessee landscape has meant new adaptations in many areas of the state. The deer population has grown to a degree where its numbers are causing dangers on our highways and turkey have even grown to a point where they too can stop traffic in some areas. Both deer and turkey do major damage to agricultural crops in the state, but with regular hunting, their numbers are being managed to a degree. Agriculture is the major provider of habitat for wildlife and the food source for its population.
Over the years, farmers have had a tolerance level for the damage that wildlife can do knowing the importance also of their existence to the overall ecosystem. However, that tolerance level has been pushed to a breaking point by the introduction of wild hogs into the Tennessee landscape and farmers are now begging for help as the numbers of hogs increase and the damage is becoming so bad that some farmers are even predicting the loss of entire crops this fall due to wild hogs “rooting” it up. The economic damage and property destruction is unbearable for the farmers, plus the hogs have also tested positive to carry brucellosis and pseudorabies which both pose serious health risks to humans and animals.
Wild pigs are not native to the Americas to begin with. They were first introduced to the United States in the 1500s by Spanish explorers and later domesticated on farms. Because pigs are highly adaptable and capable of fending for themselves, when released into the wild they can spread rapidly. Tennessee’s leading wild hog population explosion is happening due to illegal transportation and release of these destructive animals by uncaring individuals.
In the 2011 legislative session, lawmakers, Farm Bureau, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and TWRA worked to make changes in the state law to begin one of several strategies of attacking the problem. The statutory change removed wild hogs from the definition of “big game” which is a protected species for hunting in Tennessee. The Tennessee Wildlife Resource Commission then designated wild hogs as a “species deemed destructive” to property and one that may pose health and safety risks to humans, livestock and native wildlife. By designating wild hogs as a “species deemed destructive,” TWRA has the flexibility to implement a program to address the problem. In 2004 wild hog populations existed in 26 counties. Today 58 counties have wild hogs.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been signed by a number of agencies and organizations to help combat the hog problem. TWRA, TDA and other state and federal agencies are working diligently to tighten enforcement on illegal transportation and release of wild hogs. Other groups signing onto the MOU include the Tennessee Farm Bureau, The Tennessee Pork Producers, the Tennessee Association of Conservation Districts, the Tennessee Soybean Association and the Tennessee Wildlife Federation.
If you are a Tennessee landowner, you may use several new methods to dispatch wild hogs on your property. Old methods, including sport hunting, seem to not be working and it is time to eradicate Tennessee’s wild hog population. Go to www.tn.gov/twraand click on their New Wild Hog Regulations heading to learn more about what you can do to get rid of this destructive problem.
A story I recently received from a friend could be an example of the judgment of some of the people who are bringing these hogs into our state.
The story goes that out in one of our western state forests, a man was caught sitting at a make-shift campfire by a forest ranger, and to the ranger's horror, the man was eating a bald eagle. The man of course was put in jail for the crime.
On the day of his trial, the judge asked him, “Do you know that killing and eating a bald eagle is a federal offense?"
The man answered, "Yes, I do your honor, but I got lost in the woods and hadn't had anything to eat for two weeks. I was so hungry. Next thing I see is a bald eagle swooping down at the lake for some fish. I knew that if I followed the eagle I could maybe steal the fish. I caught up with the eagle, which lighted upon a tree stump to eat the fish. I threw a rock toward the eagle hoping he would drop the fish and fly away. Unfortunately, in my weakened condition, my aim was off, and the rock hit the eagle squarely on his poor little head, and killed it.”
The judge was moved by the man’s story and gave a real fast judgment. He said, "Due to the extreme circumstances you were under and because you didn't intend to kill the eagle, the court will dismiss the charges."
The judge being somewhat of an outdoorsman himself then leaned over the bench and whispered to the man, "If you don't mind my asking, what does a bald eagle taste like?"
Feeling he had made a friend the man said, "Well your honor, it is hard to explain. The best I can describe it is somewhere between a California condor and a spotted owl."
I know this is an old story, but it is a good example of maybe how these hogs got here. Bad judgment.
- Pettus L. Read is editor of the Tennessee Farm Bureau News and Director of Communications for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org