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NEWS | Sept. 15, 2011

Rooting out wild hogs on Joint Base Charleston

By Terrence Larimer natural resources manager

Hogzilla! The very word conjures up images of a gigantic wild hog. But that would be somewhere else, not here, right?

Maybe not.

Feral hogs first appeared on Joint Base Charleston Weapons Station in 2004 with a sighting on the Cooper River waterfront near Pier Bravo. Then reports came in from the Southside area near the TC Docks at the mouth of Goose Creek and from the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command complex. An intensive trapping and hunting effort eliminated those hogs.

Unfortunately, in 2005 and 2006 feral hogs moved into the forests and marshes of the base's Northside area. Control efforts were shifted Northside and 79 hogs were taken out of the area during 2005-06. That was followed by annual removal of 98 hogs in 2006-07 and 70 hogs in 2007-08. Those three years were the high tide of hog populations on base with smaller removals of 19 and 27 hogs in 2008-09 and 2009-10.

This season (2010-11) control efforts have resulted in 29 hogs killed. Hog control efforts are three pronged: still hunting during deer season, trapping, and pursuit of hogs with dogs. The largest hog taken so far was a 418 lb. sow shot by Game Warden Billy Potter.

According to Sam Gordon, a JB CHS game warden, "We've seen hog rubs on trees between three and four feet high and tracks as big as a man's hand. There are hogs out there weighing 350 to 450 pounds or bigger."

Gordon continued, "We've had hog traps that held 250 pounders get torn up by bigger hogs. The traps couldn't hold them and I'm talking 1/8" galvanized steel hog wire fencing welded to rebar steel rods."

Feral or wild hogs are domestic stock that have escaped and are living and reproducing in the wild. They are a serious problem worldwide wherever they occur .... and they are rapidly spreading throughout the lower 48 states of the U. S. Wild hogs are non-native wildlife species commonly classified as an invasive, exotic pets.

Executive Order 13112 directs federal authorities to eliminate or control such species on federal lands. The reasons for this requirement are numerous. Hogs compete directly for food and cover with many species of wildlife including deer, turkey, squirrels, quail and others. They cause sever damage in agricultural and urban settings with their rooting behavior. Lawns, gardens, golf courses and natural areas look like a roto-tiller has plowed through them after pigs have been there. In past years, wild hogs have been implicated in national outbreaks of salmonella through contamination of lettuce in California.

Hogs will eat almost anything: animal, vegetable, cereal or fruit. Their wallowing behavior severely degrades water quality in streams and ponds. In addition feral hogs carry serious diseases that are transmissible to people and domestic animals including brucellosis and pseudorabies. You should always were protective gloves when handling feral hogs or their meat. Because of all this, the transport of non-domestic pigs across state lines is illegal. In addition, it is illegal to transport and release wild hogs for hunting purposes or in an attempt to establish or supplement a free roaming population.

Adult hogs generally weigh from 100 to 300 pounds but can weigh up to 500 plus pounds. Their color can vary from solid black, gray grizzled black, brown, blond, white or red to spotted or belted. Hogs are prolific breeders, first reproducing at age six to 10 months and have two litters per year. Litter size ranges from four to eight, but may be as large as 13. Generally, wild hogs travel in family groups called sounders comprised of two or more sows and their young. Adult boars are solitary, only joining a herd to breed.

In South Carolina, a hunting license is required to hunt feral hogs. However, the S. C. Department of Natural Resources does not classify wild hogs as game animals. Consequently, there are no closed seasons or weapons restrictions for hunting hogs on private lands.

Eradication of an established population of wild hogs in dense habitats like that found on JB CHS - WS is nearly impossible. Adult hogs quickly become trap shy and nocturnal under pressure from hunting. In addition the freshwater marsh and wooded swamps provide extensive escape habitat that is, in places, nearly impenetrable to hunters.

Hogzilla and his kin are unfortunately here to stay but with continued control efforts the hog population will hopefully remain at an acceptable level at JB CHS.