Hog-hunting ban pondered in state

By Jeff
Mulhollem

Editor

Harrisburg – Although no wild hog in Pennsylvania has tested
positive for dangerous diseases and hunting pressure has tailed
off, state officials revealed recently that they are still
considering a ban on hunting feral swine here similar to the one
established in Kansas last year.

&#8220We would like to use a hunting ban as a tool, but it
is yet to be determined whether we have a strong legal argument,”
said Dr. David Griswold, assistant director of the bureau of animal
health at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

&#8220If it is determined that we have a strong legal
argument, we will go for it. It is something we are
considering.”

Hunting has been blamed by state and federal officials for
spreading feral hog populations around the state. The USDA’s Bureau
of Wildlife Services began a survey last fall to determine just how
many wild hogs are here.

They expected to find just a few hundred – instead, they were
shocked to find what they estimate to be 3,000 animals, primarily
living and reproducing in five Pennsylvania counties: Butler,
Bedford, Cambria, Bradford and Tioga.

Initially, USDA officials were testing wild hogs for
psuedorabies and bruscellosis. They have expanded their disease
surveillance to include toxoplasmosis, trichinosis and prrs
(porcine reproductive and respiratory system), according to Harris
Glass, director of wildlife services for the USDA in
Pennsyl-vania.

&#8220For the domestic hog industry, it would have
devastating effects if those diseases were found,” he explained.
&#8220If they were found here, it would limit pork exports to
other countries. Pennsylvania is one of the top-10 pork-exporting
states.”

From dead wild hogs – either trapped by USDA officials or shot
and provided by hunters, blood, tonsils and muscle tissue from
diaphragms and tongues are tested. So far no diseases have turned
up in any samples, Glass reported.

Hunters were initially asked by state and federal officials to
kill as many wild hogs as they could, but later Glass and others
pleaded with them to stop hunting the animals because they were
interfering with and sabotaging efforts to trap and eliminate wild
hogs.

&#8220Landowners are fed up with hunters pounding on their
doors and trying to get on their properties – at all hours,” Glass
said. &#8220Farmers have crop damage from wild hogs, but the
hassles of dealing with hunters are worse for them than the wild
hogs. We have told them to go ahead and post their land, and this
may result in a lot of people posting their properties.”

With summer has come a break in hunting pressure on wild hogs,
and that has led to more success trapping the animals, Glass
pointed out. &#8220Intensive hunting pressure in the last year
really pushed the hogs around,” he said. &#8220It’s like
spilling a bucket of paint. It is a double-edged sword – you want
people to take them, but you don’t want to spread them around.

&#8220Traditionally everybody thinks that you get enough
people out there, you can stomp out the problem. But wild hogs are
a whole different animal. They are very good at evading hunters.
They associate people with danger and they are adept at avoiding
people, staying in heavy brush.”

Once wild hogs are shot at over a bait pile, it is very unlikely
that they will ever go near a bait pile again, Griswold noted.
&#8220It is frustrating for the USDA teams because they would
find where a group of hogs was feeding and begin baiting them so
they could trap them, only to have hunters come in and shoot them
over the bait pile,” he said.

&#8220Hunters would kill an individual or two, but the group
would leave the area and never come back, ending up in the next
county. That’s why we need to ban hunting for feral hogs.”

If a ban on feral hog hunting is enacted, Griswold conceded,
there would be some exceptions. Property owners who have wild hogs
coming onto their property, damaging their crops and mixing with
their livestock could legally kill them. &#8220And during
deer-hunting seasons it would be legal to kill them,” he said,
&#8220because you would have lots of hunters out pushing them
around anyway – that’s what they do in Kansas.”

The Pennsylvania Depart-ment of Agriculture is in the process of
rewriting its livestock-importation regulations, Gris-wold said.
Swine had been classified as feeders and breeding animals.
&#8220We are going to change the classification of livestock
imported into Pennsylvania because currently somebody can bring
swine into our state and say they are feeders and they are exempt
from disease-testing requirements,” he said.

&#8220From states where feral swine are known to exist – no
matter where they are born, if they live at least part of their
life outdoors – they will be classified as commercial transitional,
and there will be very strict regulations requiring all animals
brought in to be tested.”

Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture officials will soon have
the authority to go to shooting preserves and demand to see
documents showing whether their wild hogs come from legitimate
sources and were tested for diseases, Griswold predicted.

&#8220We have a fair amount of anecdotal evidence that
shooting preserves in Pennsylvania are buying wild boars that have
not been tested for diseases,” he said. &#8220Very few places
are selling tested wild boars. The problem with that is that a lot
of the dealers who are selling these untested wild boars are coming
up from the Southern states, such as Georgia and Alabama, and
bringing infectious diseases with them that would be very damaging
if they ever got into the domestic swine population here.”

The state agriculture department has no documentation, but
Griswold said he has heard credible stories of groups of hunters
paying distributors in the south to bring wild hogs into
Pennsylvania and release them for their sport. That has been known
to happen in other states such as Kansas.

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