The federal government is helping rural areas in the Wiregrass with a wild hog problem via a United States Department of Agriculture grant awarded to Alabama’s wildlife services office.
Alabama is getting $3.7 million to fund 14 full-time technicians who will work with landowners in Houston, Geneva, Henry, Baldwin, Escambia and Sumter counties to combat feral swine overpopulation.
Workers with B&O Hog Control, based in Geneva, have captured and killed around 9,000 feral hogs in less than six years — 80% of those kills have been in Geneva County.
Owner Keith Owen said he sees the funding as an opportunity for the government to help farm owners, his primary clientele, but showed concern that the money be spent wisely.
“We don’t want to see this money wasted by the state on past practices that have been proven not to work,” he said, adding that he hopes to be a part of the conversation to help come up with a solution.
“The properties that we’ve worked on, we’ve made a big difference,” he said. “But if that particular parcel of land is adjacent to a neighbor’s land that is not using hog control services, that’s a problem. It’s got to be a joint effort.”
Capturing hogs is not an easy task, he noted. They’re one of the smartest animals in the world and reproduce quickly and setting easy traps can cause significant long-term harm.
The grant is part of a three-year Feral Swine Eradication and Control Pilot Program outlined in the 2018 Farm Bill to address the threat that feral swine pose to agriculture, ecosystems and human and animal health.
Alabama was determined by the Alabama and Plant Health Inspection Service to have one of the highest feral swine population densities and associated damages in the country along with Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas.
Pilot projects will consist broadly of the three coordinated components as follows:
(1) feral swine removal by APHIS;
(2) restoration efforts supported by NRCS;
(3) assistance to producers for feral swine control provided through partnership agreements with non-federal partners. Projects can be one to three years in duration.
“The projects selected for funding will allow APHIS and National Resources Conversation Service to collectively reduce the damage and disease caused by one of the most destructive and formidable invasive species in the United States,” said APHIS Administrator Kevin Shea at the time of the program’s announcement in June.
Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell applauded the announcement.
“We are very pleased to see additional resources being allocated to combat agricultural damage caused by feral swine,” said Parnell, who leads the state’s largest farm organization. “Increased federal funding for control efforts has been a priority for the federation and this, in addition to increased funding through the annual appropriations process, will go a long way to support our farmers as they manage feral swine.”
Wild hogs have become a growing problem in the Wiregrass for over 30 years, presenting a need for hog control services that contract with local governments. Last year, Dothan’s city commission had to contract the services of two local businesses to capture and kill an estimated dozen of swine that were roaming Eastgate Park.