The Feral Hog in Oklahoma
Methods of Control
Much feral hog hunting in Oklahoma is free with permission. However, leases specific to hog hunting, deer hunting leases that include hog hunting, and commercial or guided hog hunts are available.
The feral hog is not classified as a game animal in Oklahoma. However, a hunting license is required to hunt them on public hunting areas. Additionally, when hunting feral hogs on private or public land during any deer, elk or antelope season, hunters must possess a filled or unfilled license appropriate for the current season, area or zone unless exempt. Landowners may obtain a feral hog hunting permit from their local game warden for use during deer, elk or antelope season. Some hunting techniques result in the live capture of feral hogs and subsequent transportation of those hogs to other locations.
Under the 2007 Oklahoma House Bill 1914, no one can release a feral hog onto any unlicensed premise. Feral hogs can be released onto a licensed sporting or breeding facility, onto a licensed buying or gathering station, or onto a slaughter facility. It can be a felony to do otherwise, and penalties can be up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $2,000. Laws governing the transportation of feral hogs from other states into Oklahoma require a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection containing a written entry permit from the state of origin, individual identification of each animal and negative brucellosis and pseudorabies test results. Testing must be done within 15 days of importation, and animals testing positive for either disease must be immediately sent to slaughter or slaughtered on the premises.
Domestic hogs are occasionally raised as free-ranging animals, particularly in southeastern Oklahoma. Generally, free-ranging swine in other parts of the state are feral and not considered livestock. However, where feral hogs are hunted, an effort should be made to be sure the population is feral and landowner permission has been granted before hunting.
A large boar taken by a hunter. Although considered a trophy by hog hunters, boars this size are not good table fare. Healthy sows and their young as well as sexually immature boars can be good eating. (photo by Brett Addison)
Hunting is probably second to trapping in terms of efficiency for reducing feral hog numbers. When combined, hunting and trapping can prove to be a very effective method of control. Hunting can be effective throughout the year and, in many areas, is becoming a popular sport as well. Some landowners are offering guided trophy hog hunts, turning a liability into an asset. Landowners who do not wish to lease their land can still use hunting as a tool for control and may choose to barter with hunters for other services.
There are many ways to hunt feral hogs including stand hunting from tree stands or blinds, still hunting and hunting with dogs. Stand hunting and still hunting are probably the two most popular methods, but hunting with dogs is becoming increasingly popular. Feral hogs taken while stand hunting are most commonly incidental to deer hunting. Stand hunting can be done over baited areas or in areas with abundant hog signs such as rooting, wallows or trails. Still hunting also can be done in similar areas and may be more successful due to the hogs' mobility. Too often, hunters make the mistake of hunting areas that hogs are no longer using. Hog hunting can be a formidable sport with gun, bow, primitive firearm or handgun.
Feral hog hunting with dogs has become an established sport in Oklahoma. Trained dogs have proven to be efficient at capturing feral hogs. Like trapping, hunting hogs with trained dogs has been a proven way to remove feral hogs from suburban areas, golf courses and other populated areas where discharging a firearm may be illegal. Hunters using dogs generally ride horses or mules in order to keep up with the dogs. Most hunters have dogs that track and eventually bay the feral hog and dogs that catch the hog. Often, the catch dogs are leashed by the hunters until the other dogs bay the hog. Then the catch dogs are released to capture and hold the hog until the hunters arrive.
Aside from the obvious removal of hogs, there is another advantage to a landowner using hunting. When hunting efforts are intense, feral hogs often shift their home range, causing them to leave the property. A potential disadvantage of intense hunting pressure is hogs may change their activity periods, becoming more nocturnal. Nighttime shooting or hunting with dogs can be effective, but appropriate permits must be obtained from the local game warden. Due to the possible shifts in activity periods or home range, intense hunting pressure should be evaluated when trophy fees are collected for feral hog hunting.
Using fences to control feral hogs is probably the most expensive option. Fencing large acreages seldom provides permanent control because feral hogs eventually find their way through most types of fences. Terrain is a major consideration when considering fencing. Canyons, creeks, ditches, etc., can create problem areas in a fence that hogs are sure to find. Chain link fence buried a foot underground, mesh wire fences, mesh wire fences combined with an electric wire and multiple strand electric fences have proven effective. Electric fence is not 100 percent effective, but research has shown multistrand electric fences with wire spaced 8 and 18 inches above the ground reduce intrusions by about half. Because of cost and maintenance requirements, electric fences used alone or in combination with other fence types are most practical for small areas.
Toxicants are not legal for feral hogs in the U.S. because there are none registered for use on feral hogs. Studies have shown the use of toxicants is considerably less expensive than other control methods in terms of cost per feral hog removed, but research and development costs have been a deterrent to developing a registered toxicant for the U.S. Other problems with using a toxicant are non-target species impacts through consumption of bait or the ingestion of infected meat and the lower priority of feral hog control relative to other species.
Another ally in the control of feral hogs is the coyote. Piglets and small hogs are frequently eaten by coyotes, and coyote populations have been known to increase as feral hog populations increase. However, the extent that coyotes control hog populations remains to be verified. Owls and bobcats also have been documented as predators of piglets and small pigs. Mountain lion and black bear also are known predators.