NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Louisiana wildlife agents could soon be able to stop hunters who are moving feral hogs from place to place.
People are the biggest reason the animals have spread far and fast, and are currently a problem in 34 states. Feral swine root up and leave sloppy wallows in farm fields, swamps, prairies, golf courses, levees and lawns. They compete with deer and game birds for acorns and eat fawns and ground-dwelling birds and their eggs and chicks.
“Any state, regardless of whether they’ve had feral swine in the past, is just a pickup truck away from a problem,” said Dale Nolte, head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s feral swine management program.
He wouldn’t say it’s specifically hunters who are to blame. But Jim LaCour, state wildlife veterinarian for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, said permission to hunt feral swine — aimed at controlling the population — also brought an unfortunate incentive to spread them.
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“It’s a double-edged sword,” LaCour said.
He said feral hogs had been documented for hundreds of years in central Louisinaa’s Catahoula Lake basin and the Pearl River basin, in southeast Louisiana. “And they didn’t really spread until sport hunting became popular in the ’90s and 2000s,” LaCour said.
Now farmers across the state , many of them in northeast Louisiana, are reporting damage from feral pigs.
LaCour said Tennessee also documented hogs in two small areas for 50 years, “And within 15 years of opening up statewide hog hunting, they had probably 50 areas of the state with feral hogs.”
Under a recent “notice of intent ” from the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission, anyone hauling a live feral hog in Louisiana would have to show Louisiana Agriculture and Forestry Department authorization to do so. Eighty-six people have such authorization, either to bring hogs to holding pens or to haul them from holding pens to slaughterhouses, agriculture and forestry spokeswoman Veronica Mosgrove said.
State-permitted slaughterhouses may take only live animals, she said. She said at least two approved holding pens supply a slaughterhouse in Springfield, Louisiana, with feral hogs, and one accumulates hogs for a slaughterhouse in Texas.
People without the right papers could face nearly $2,000 in fines from the two departments, said Jim LaCour, state wildlife veterinarian for Wildlife and Fisheries. The new regulation would carry a $950 fine in addition to the $1,000 agriculture department regulation, as well as loss of the hogs, he said.
“We’re trying to add some enforceability … We have more than 200 more enforcement agents than they have,” LaCour said. The agriculture department has four forestry agents and six brand enforcement agents, compared to 215 wildlife and fisheries enforcement agents.
People have until 4:30 p.m. March 2 to mail or email their comments for or against the proposal to LaCour, and the commission will probably decide the matter at its April 5 meeting, department spokesman Robert “Trey” Iles said.