Wild hogs continue to be a plague throughout Mississippi, occupying about half of the state's land area.
A farmer recently said, "I wish I had a deer problem." His statement summed up the hog problem very well. There's no doubt that deer can cause a lot of damage to certain crops, but that damage is minor compared to the destruction wild hogs can cause. What's more, hog damage is no longer limited to farmland. You may even see them in your back yard!
Wild hogs have a growth rate that exceeds any other large mammal in North America. For example, a mature doe in very good condition will have two, and very rarely, three fawns in a season, while an adult sow typically produces 4 to 8 piglets per litter. So hog litter size is at least double that of white-tailed deer! This ability to reproduce so prolifically makes control efforts very important if we want to stem the growth and spread of hog populations.
Currently, the best way to reduce hog populations is through trapping. Hunting and shooting have their place, but a well-organized trapping program will yield the best results relative to time and effort. The key to getting a hog in a trap is through its stomach.
Wild hogs are classified as omnivores, which means they eat both plant and animal matter. About ninety percent of a hog's diet is plant matter, including roots, fruits, acorns and—much to the chagrin of our Mississippi farmers—crops like corn, soybeans, rice, peanuts and sweet potatoes. The remaining ten percent of a hog's diet is meat, which it acquires opportunistically. This essentially means it eats any meat it can find, such as mice, salamanders, frogs, snakes, rabbits and deer fawns.
Winter is the best season for hog trapping because most of the foods that hogs relish are limited in cold months. Summer crops that hogs demolish have not yet been planted, and their favorite naturally occurring foods, such as blackberry, persimmon and muscadine, have already been eaten. Probably the most sought-after wintertime food is acorns, which is unfortunate for our native wildlife species, such as deer, turkey and squirrels. When acorns are available, trapping can be difficult simply because hogs aren't nearly as attracted to bait when Mother Nature's candy is abundant on the forest floor.
It may be best to wait until deer season has closed to minimize activity in the woods and to reduce any legal constraints when using grain-based foods for hog bait. Always check with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks for hog trapping regulations at www.mdwfp.com.
Here are a few tips for effectively trapping hogs.
First, the bigger the trap, the better. Small "box" traps are occasionally used to catch an individual hog, but that is not our goal. Instead, choose a "corral" style trap, which will enable you to catch several hogs each time the trap is triggered. Also, because corral traps do not have a top or roof, non-target animals that may get inadvertently trapped can escape without harm.
Second, do your homework. Pick a trapping location that has plenty of evidence that hogs routinely visit the area. Then, start the baiting process. Use a trail camera so you can determine how many hogs are routinely visiting the site and consuming the bait.
Third, construct the trap. Now you just have to convince the hogs to enter the corral to consume the bait, which may take several days. Here's where your trail-camera information becomes critically important. Don't set the trap or engage the triggered trap door until you have photographic evidence that all the hogs are entering and feeding in the trap. When you determine that all the hogs feel secure entering the trap, it's time to set the trap door trigger and wait for a successful catch.
Cellular technology is making this process even more efficient by allowing you to install a camera at the trap site that will send photographs to your cell phone. What's even cooler is you can send a signal back to the camera and tell it to close the trap door! This technology improves trapping efficiency because you will never drop the trap door on a non-target animal, and you can wait until all the hogs have entered the trap before you send the command to drop the door. Of course, this technology will cost more, so you will have to determine if this newer technology is right for your situation. But there's no doubt about it—it is effective.
Unfortunately for our farms, forests and wildlife, we are in for a long fight if we are to control wild hogs and keep them from spreading—but it's a battle worth fighting. For more information about wild hogs and how to control this invasive pest, please visit our MSU Extension website www.WildPigInfo.com.