Feral hog populations in Arkansas are growing, and wildlife officials are concerned about the damage the animals are doing to wilderness areas.

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Officer Chris Majors said damage by the hogs is evident in all 75 counties in the state.

Majors told the Baxter Bulletin newspaper in Mountain Home that the hog population in Arkansas is "exploding." He said the problem is so severe in Texas and Oklahoma that lawmakers there have legalized shooting the animals from helicopters.

Majors, who is based in Calico Rock, said trapping the hogs could help reduce their numbers. He said the state has no hard numbers on its feral hog population, but he said that it's exploding.

"If everyone who has hogs on their land would learn how to trap safely, and use traps, that would help," Majors said. "Landowners are more inclined to shoot them, but it's just not as efficient. If you see a group of 10, you might get one with a gun."

Last year at the National Conference on Feral Hogs in St. Louis, scientists discussed issues ranging from protecting agricultural lands from feral hogs to eradication measures that included trapping and leaving food laced with contraceptive chemicals for hogs.

The Game and Fish Commission's Web site includes a section on feral hogs and shows how to build a trap.

Majors said hunting hogs is popular and appears to have contributed to the rise in population in Arkansas. The hogs the commission has trapped on public lands show clear physical traits of domestic "meat" hogs that have been crossbred with wild hogs that that are native to forested lands in Europe and Asia.

Hog populations have arisen in isolated places across the state where there had been no feral hogs, suggesting they were brought in to be hunted, Majors said. That practice is illegal, he said.

The beasts tear up the forest floor and damage farmland. A de cline in turkey populations can be attributed to hogs, Majors said, and they threaten other wildlife.
Majors also said feral hogs tend to carry pseudorabies and swine brucellosis.

The pseudorabies virus can kill cattle, dogs and cats, though it is not a danger to humans. The swine brucellosis bacteria can spread to domestic herds, causing sows to abort. The bacteria can also infect humans, causing a fever and other symptoms.

Majors suggested wearing gloves, eye protection and covering one's mouth and nose while butchering a feral hog. Meat that is cooked thoroughly should be safe to eat, he said.

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