Landowners in almost every county in Oklahoma face a growing problem with feral swine, which can spread diseases, threaten native wildlife and cause major damage to property.
It’s not uncommon for area residents to spot a sounder of swine rustling through pastures, prairies, hollows and thickets. District 5 Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor E.O. Smith said he frequently gets call from people in his district, and beyond, about hogs running through their property. He recently shared a picture of a group of wild pigs scurrying around Lake Tenkiller.
“Anybody who lives south of Vian down by the [wildlife] refuge are getting torn up by the hogs,” he said. “I have people calling from Akins, Webbers Falls, and now they’re up on Tenkiller. It’s been a problem down here [Sequoyah County] for a year, but those pictures I shared were in Cherokee County.”
Wild hogs are social creatures. They’re typically found in groups, with up to 30 individuals at once, although the sizes can vary. They also reproduce at a rapid pace, and aren’t easy to hunt without the proper equipment.
“They kind of come and go in different areas – around the lake, up around Moody, Lowrey, and along the river, there are quite a few,” said Cherokee County Game Warden Cody Youngblood.
The feral swine can impact Oklahoma’s wildlife. According to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, they compete for food resources that also support deer, raccoons, black bears and opossums. They can also spread diseases to both wildlife and humans. Pseudorabies is found in roughly one-third of the feral swine population, which can spread to dogs, cattle, goats and sheep. Brucellosis and leptospirosis can be passed to people.
“Wild hogs run rampant pretty much across North America,” said Garrett Ford, agriculture educator at the Cherokee County OSU Cooperative Extension Service. “They’re really bad in row crop settings. In a pasture, they can definitely cause some damage to some spots where somebody might be growing hay, whether they’re going to cut and bale, or even if it’s just going to be grazed. They root everything up looking for grubs and other stuff they like to eat. In the process, they damage the ground.”
The swine are invasive, destructive and unwanted. The winter is often a good time to trap them, because their food supply is low. Hunters will have an easier time baiting them into traps, although it can take three or four feedings until a trap is able to catch a whole a herd. However, there’s no season for hunting hogs, so they are fair game all year long. They’re also more active at night, which is one reason Youngblood said hunters can get a permit to hunt them in the dark.
“We have the feral hog night hunting permit online they can get, which will help control them,” Youngblood said. “With that permit and landowner permission, it allows them to hunt them at night. On private property, you can hunt them year-round. On one of our public lands, if it’s open, they can hunt them year-round.”
Youngblood said anytime there is an open deer or turkey season, whatever method is allowed to harvest deer or turkey is the only method allowed for hogs. For instance, it’s currently deer archery season at the Cherokee Wildlife Management Area, so only archery equipment can be used there for hogs.
“Come Jan. 16, they could go in there with their dogs and hunt them, however,” Youngblood said.
To learn more about hunting and trapping feral hogs, visit wildlife department.com.