At its meeting on Jan. 22, the Missouri Conservation Commission voiced initial approval for recommended changes to the Wildlife Code of Missouri that would prohibit the hunting of feral hogs on lands owned, leased or managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC).

“Hog hunting just isn’t working,” said Joe Jerek, news service coordinator with MDC. “We’ve never had a hog-hunting season and we’ve never encouraged hog hunting.”

Like many states, Missouri is fighting an uphill battle to reduce feral hog numbers in order to curb damage done to property, habitat and native wildlife. “Wild hogs are not considered game in Missouri,” says Jerek. “They are an invasive, destructive species.”

While pockets of free-ranging hogs have existed in the Ozarks of Missouri, it’s illegal trapping and releasing of hogs by hunters that has caused the exploding population in the southern portions of the state. While hunting hasn’t helped curb the population explosion, professional trapping can.

“We are focused on removing the entire sounder (family group) of hogs,” says Jerek. “Our staff spends weeks researching potential traps sites, baiting the area and setting up corral enclosures (traps).”

Jerek says sometimes hunters will stumble upon trap sites or get word of a baited area and move in and set up to hunt the pigs. They’ll shoot one or two hogs and the remainder of the sounder scatters and usually doesn’t return, venturing off to cause damage in another area. Even if the hunters don’t shoot hogs over the bait, disturbing the area can often send the pigs fleeing to another location.

“We know we’re not going to remove all the hogs from the entire state,” says Jerek. “It’s a problem that’s not going away and our efforts are to manage the numbers.”

The state is faced with budget concerns and too few staff to combat the growing problem, so every effort made needs to be done effectively.

A public-comment period will open April 2 and run through May 1. Comments can be submitted by mail to: Missouri Department of Conservation, Regulations Committee, PO Box 180, Jefferson City, Missouri 65102-0180. Comments can also be submitted by email to Regulations@mdc.mo.gov, or online at mdc.mo.gov/node/24141. Following final Conservation Commission consideration of citizen input and staff recommendations this summer, the anticipated effective date of the regulation changes will be Sept. 30, 2016. Potential penalties for illegal hog hunting could include fines and the loss of hunting privileges.

Hunters will still be allowed to shoot hogs on private property and lands not managed, leased or owned by the MDC.