Monday, January 25, 2010

Wild Hogs in the Smokies

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports on the continuing infestation of wild hogs in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

National Park Service photo

According to the article by Morgan Simmons, the hogs:

...wreak havoc on the ecosystem by eating rare plants and salamanders, defecating in streams and turning up the ground.

Howard Duncan, a ranger at Big South Fork [National Recreation Area], said the park's wild hogs tend to look more like Eurasian wild boar than feral pigs. "If you have any feral pigs or wild hogs, you have too many," Duncan said. "They have few natural predators, and quickly build to a large population. They have a taste for the bulbs of lady slippers. I've even seen them going down creeks, flipping over rocks for crayfish. They have no place in the ecosystem."

One of the places where I’ve seen the most damage is along Heintooga Road in the eastern part of the park. And at other locations, you might come across old traps that have been used in the past to capture the critters. During the winter, the park employs a team to hunt and trap the wild pigs which tend to move to lower elevations in search of food.

In 2009, the park's hog team removed 620 wild hogs, the third highest since the hog control program started in the late 1950s. Biologists say the hog population spiked last year because of a bountiful mast crop that enabled the sows to produce more than one litter.

And apparently, wild semi-domesticated hogs released by hunters near the park are compounding the problem.

Dan Hicks (what, no Hot Licks?) is a spokesman for Tennessee Wildlife Resources and confirms what I witnessed this past summer, when escaped hogs invaded my place:

"The hog reverts back to the wild quicker than any domesticated animal," Hicks said. "I've seen some on Catoosa with black fur and big tufts around the head like a Russian hog, but with white spots toward the back like a domestic hog. They're just plain ugly."

A 1990 paper by John D. Peine and Jane Allen Farmer, WILD HOG MANAGEMENT PROGRAM AT GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK provides historical background and includes recommendations on control strategies. For anyone who wants to know more about what was described back then as “the park's number one resident natural resource problem” it’s a good read.


Anonymous said...

This is just like what we have seen
on Cumberland Island National Sea-
shore off the coast of Georgia. The
hogs have been a problem there for
many decades.

I understand that if one hog sees
another trapped (which doesn't
happen a lot) it will never go near
a trap again. The animals are very
smart, very destructive, and very
aggressive. Another example of man
messing with Mother Nature.

kanugalihi said...

wellllllll i have it on good authority that it's nice to have a few payrolled positions for "hogslayers". all the years i have stalked the backcountry and I've never seen a damn pig in one of those boxes.