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Feral Hogs In The Mark Twain Forest Are Trouble, But Hunting Them May Not Be An Option

A taxidermied feral hog was on display at an open house in Rolla to get comment about hunting them in the Mark Twain National Forest.
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio
A taxidermied feral hog was on display at an open house in Rolla to get comment about hunting in the Mark Twain National Forest.

Feral hogs are causing major damage to the Mark Twain National Forest.

The animals dig up grasslands and crops, they eat eggs and baby wildlife, and scratching an itch on their backs can literally strip the bark off a tree.

Hunters want a chance to help out with this menace that can weigh over 200 pounds and produce 40 to 50 offspring a year. But the National Forest Service is considering outlawing feral hog hunts on public land in the Mark Twain.

Sherri Schwenke, forest supervisor at Mark Twain, said trapping is the most effective way to get rid of feral hogs.

Credit Mark Twain National Forest
Damage from feral hogs rooting around the grounds of the Mark Twain National Forest.

“Trapping is much more effective when there isn’t any hunting occurring. So we want to make sure our trapping is as effective as possible, whether that’s by landowner request on private land or on the National Forest System lands,” Schwenke said.

But some hunters disagree. John Parsons of Potosi attended a Forest Service open house in Rolla to lobby for hunting. He said it doesn’t make sense to keep hunters out of the battle against feral hogs.

“They get weary to the traps. They start getting trap savvy. So you need dogs to hunt them. People need to shoot them from the deer stands. You can’t just do it one way. I ride horses and go cross country where trappers ain’t going to go,” Parsons said.

Parsons says he should be allowed to hunt feral hogs in the forest, which he said would provide a public service. He points out feral hogs are a problem in many other states, where trapping hasn’t stopped them.

Feral hogs also tear up farm fields. Some local farmers are on the side of trapping. 

Credit West Plains Daily Quill, published with permission
Phelps County farmer Dale DeLong poses with a few of the feral hogs he has trapped on his property.

Dale DeLong, who farms in Phelps County, saw his hay production go down by a third because of feral hogs. He got traps and bait from the Department of Conservation and Forest Service, and trapped 500 hogs in two years. He said hunters can’t compete with that.

“I’ve been around these hogs too long. If you can kill a hog, it’s an accident. If you kill two, it’s a really big accident. Like this one trap, I caught 22 hogs in one night in that trap.” 

DeLong says hunters can chase hogs away from trapping sites and make them less curious, and that makes traps less effective. 

The Forest Service took in more than 1,000 comments during a monthlong period and will make a decision in the next few weeks about the future of hunting hogs in Mark Twain. 

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Jonathan Ahl is the Newscast Editor and Rolla correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.