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Ken Perrotte’s Outdoors Column: VDGIF out to check feral hog invasion
ERAL HOGS are gaining a piggy toehold in Virginia and state wildlife officials insist now is the time to do something about it.
Eradication down to the last hair of their chinny chin chins is the optimal solution. Fairy tales aside, the pig problem will get exponentially worse with inaction, explained Mike Dye, a regional biologist for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Dye is VDGIF’s representative to the newly formed Wild Pig Working Group of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.
Compared to more southerly states such as Texas, Georgia and Florida, Virginia’s hog hassles are just beginning, which is precisely the time to crank up the pressure. Texas, for example, has an estimated 2.8 million wild hogs.
Virginia has between 3,500 and 4,000, according to Dye. Approximately 400–500 of those are in Culpeper County, the rest showing up in Halifax, Charlotte, Bland and Giles counties and the Back Bay Wildlife Refuge near Virginia Beach, he added.
Without intense removal efforts, Virginia’s hog numbers will increase exponentially. Michael Bodenchuk, Texas’ feral hog control expert with the U.S. Department of Agriculture shared that a single sow can result in 1,433 hogs after 33 months.
“The average sow has six piglets and numbers don’t seem to increase rapidly after that first year, but once those second and third litters begin breeding, the population explodes,” Bodenchuk said.
While a sow can have up to three litters a year, most sows have three litters every two years, with a typical litter being 6–8 piglets, Bodenchuk said.
“Males can breed at 8 months; sows can breed once they reach about 30 pounds. Think about what that can mean for states like Virginia that are just beginning to see problems,” he said.
Dye is coordinating a public education campaign that kicks off Aug. 15 at Germanna Community College in Locust Grove. The thrust?
“Pigs are bad. We don’t want them here,” he said.
In 2010, wild hogs were impacting a documented 35,000 acres in Virginia. Occasional sightings occurred on another 60,000 acres.
Hogs damage the landscape by their practice of “rooting,” which involves digging through the top layers of vegetation and soil to feast on tubers, roots, insects and larvae.
Estimated damage in Texas, for example, is $200 per hog, per acre annually to improved pasture and row crops. In some coastal areas, hog predation of turtle eggs is severe.
Hogs with access to row crops can flatten acres overnight. Fencing capable of keeping the porkers out is very expensive; hogs can quickly dig under any fence that doesn’t also extend well beneath the soil’s surface.
In a practice that might be labeled as eco-terrorism, Dye said people are apparently trapping wild hogs in other states and illegally transporting them to Virginia for release.
“These hogs don’t look like your typical barnyard pig,” he said, adding that the pesky porkers in Culpeper were almost certainly released illegally.
Dye said landowners seeing wild hogs should report it immediately to the closest DGIF regional office. Feral hogs are classified as a nuisance species and can be killed any day of the week, except Sunday.
“If you have a clear, safe shot, take care of business and shoot the animals,” Dye said [except, of course, on Sunday].
Dye said biologists have tested wild pigs killed in Virginia and have not found incidences of trichinella parasites, which can cause trichinosis, or brucellosis, which has been documented in feral hogs in other states. Two have tested positive for pseudo-rabies, a viral disease that causes abortions in domestic pigs and is also transmissible and fatal to dogs.
Dye said Virginia’s feral hogs are safe to eat. “They’re fairly healthy animals, but wear rubber gloves when dressing them and be sure to thoroughly cook the meat,” he said.
The 29th annual Virginia Outdoor Sportsman Show returns to the Richmond Raceway Complex Friday and Saturday.
The incredible Virginia Deer Classic of the Virginia Deer Hunters Association, nearly 300 vendors and informative exhibits, plus celebrity speakers such as Lee and Tiffany Lakosky are among the reasons to make this a must-stop.
Tickets are $10 a day. For full details, see sportsman show.com.
‘FISHIN’ SONGS’ MEA CULPA
I caught a couple light torpedoes from friends and readers over my fishing songs top 10 list last week.
My New Mexico buddy, the “Outdoor Newshound” J.R. Absher, rightfully wondered why I left out “The Fishin’ Hole,” theme to the Andy Griffith Show. Guess I was tuning out pure instrumentals. Sorry, J.R. and Sheriff Taylor.
Reader Charlie Stunkle offered up several of his favorites for consideration, including Guy Clark’s “Uncertain Texas”; Muddy Waters’ “Rollin’ Stone” (a.k.a. “Catfish Blues”); Robert Earl Keen’s “The 5-Pound Bass”; and Little Feat’s “Sailin’ Shoes,” among others.
I can’t believe I messed up the name to Grand Funk’s hit “Closer to Home,” calling it “I’m Your Captain.” And, somehow, the “s” at the end of Taj Mahal’s “Fishin’ Blues” and Woody Guthrie’s “Talking Fishing Blues” got dropped.
Ken Perrotte can be reached at The Free Lance–Star, 616 Amelia Street, Fredericksburg, Va. 22401, by fax at 373-8455 or e–mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.