JEFFERSON CITY — Michael Bodenchuk believes Missouri should be bracing for a “pig bomb.”
Bodenchuk, director of Texas Wildlife Services, has seen how a feral hog population can expand. In Texas, the population started growing slowly. Then, from 2006 to 2010, it exploded — with a growth rate of 21% per year, nearly doubling over the five-year period.
The consequence of what he refers to as a “pig bomb,” even with hog removal programs in place, resulted in $89 million of crop damage. The hogs are known to eat row crops, damage local ecosystems and feed on calves, lambs and goats, according to Missouri Extension.
Bodenchuk told Missouri lawmakers Wednesday that he thinks Missouri is in the same place that Texas was about 35 years ago.
“And without some purposeful management and movement towards eradication, you could be in the same place we are now, which is not a good place to be,” Bodenchuk said.
Feral hogs cause around $2-2.5 billion in damages per year nationally, and the animals have spread to 40 states.
Dale Nolte, program manager for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s national feral swine program, said part of the problem is that the hogs breed rapidly and can adjust to almost any habitat. He speculates that the spread of the feral swine population is partially caused by people introducing them into the wild for hunting.
Nolte’s outlook for Missouri was less dire than Bodenchuk’s view.
Missouri is on track to eventually remove the invasive species from the state, Nolte said. In 2014, Congress gave the USDA funding to establish a national feral swine program. That program gives about $750,000 to support Missouri’s removal efforts. According to state statistics, through a trapping program, 9,365 feral hogs were removed from the landscape in 2018.
”From what we’ve seen, Missouri’s doing an excellent job at moving towards what their task force decided it was a goal of eventually eradicating feral swine in the states,” Nolte said. “We believe they’re taking the proper steps to achieve that goal.”