ROLLA — Hunters interested in taking any of the feral hogs that are doing significant damage in the Ozarks will have to do so in very limited windows.
The U.S. Forest Service announced on Saturday that hunting of feral hogs in Mark Twain National Forest will be limited to deer and turkey season and restricted to hunters holding permits.
Previously, there had been no restrictions on hunting the wild swine.
The move comes after the Forest Service concluded a federally mandated comment period and a series of public hearings.
In the end, Mark Twain officials decided the hunting was getting in the way of more effective ways to control the destructive species.
“Trapping is just a better way to control them,” said Cody Norris, a spokesperson for Mark Twain National Forest. “We were starting to see where, when people were out there trying to do good and hunt, it was actually interfering with trapping. So we had to make the hard decision of, 'How do we balance this?'”
Norris said that feral hogs travel in small herds, known as sounders. Well-intentioned hunters trying to shoot the animals ended up helping them.
“If you’re allowing people to go out and hunt, that’s going to scatter the animals. It’s going to make them what they call ‘trap shy,’ so they’re being attracted to an area getting ready to try and trap the whole sounder,” Norris said. “Then folks go in an inadvertently scatter that sounder and scare them off.”
The Forest Service received more than 1,200 comments on feral swine hunting.
Many of them supported the ban. But others, primarily from hunters, called for the right to continue to take the hogs.
“There is still a large population of feral hogs here. How much faster do you think they will populate the area without some hunters helping to eliminate the hogs if they are given the opportunity?” wrote one Poplar Bluff resident.
The Missouri Department of Conservation eliminated feral hog hunting on its land two years ago. That agency is part of an interdepartmental coalition of groups working on controlling the population of wild pigs.
While government-run assisted trapping will be the primary method to try to control feral hogs, other means will include Forest Service hunting from helicopters and continued research into poisons and sterilization methods.
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