Former Soldiers Helping to Slow the Feral Hog Explosion
Thursday, October 25th, 2012
Not long after Charlie Speake planted a field of peanuts on his Eufaula, Ala., farm last spring, some unwanted visitors dropped by in the dead of night, digging up and pillaging the field that he’d just planted.
“Right off the bat, those hogs were after my peanuts, rooting them up, tearing them up,” Speake said.
Farmers in his area have had trouble with feral pigs for years, but it seems to have gotten worse, he said.
“It’s hard to talk to a landowner or farmer that doesn’t have (wild) hogs,” Speake said.
So, Speake hired Jager Pro, a Columbus, Ga. company that specializes in hog control.
“They had pretty good success down here. They got in there and probably in a week to ten days, caught 33 and shot two or three more,” Speake said. “That solved my problem in my peanut field.”
Jager Pro was started by five former soldiers, and they approach the hunt for feral hogs like tracking and ambushing an enemy.
“The reason that most farmers and landowners haven’t been more successful in stopping the feral hog explosion is that hogs are smart,” said owner Rod Pinkston. Pigs are the fifth smartest animal and reproduce quickly, so if a farmer only kills three-fourths of the herd, pregnant sows will return the population to its original size in a matter of weeks.
To stop the pig population from recovering, Jager Pro’s system catches them all. At the beginning of a round-up, the farmer sets up an enclosure and puts out bait for the pigs. That’s not terribly different from the way other people catch hogs.
But, working with Jager Pro, the farmer then watches the pigs on infrared cameras, allowing them to feed each night until he is sure he has an accurate count of the number of animals in the herd. At some point – after three to five days usually – he can see via the night-vision camera that all the pigs are in the enclosure. He then slams the remote control gate and kills the hogs.
The procedure seems simple, but many people still try to attract pigs as they would deer. The type of passive trap that catches only a few animals at a time doesn’t work with hogs, because the juvenile males are the boldest and get trapped first. The sows see their mistake and live to reproduce another day.
Jager Pro has worked for seven years to convince communities of farmers to address their hog problem together and eradicate the pest that can cost them their time and crop.
The best time to do that is winter, when the pigs’ natural food source is scarce and the full herd travels together looking for food.
This winter, Jager will perform a grant-funded eradication in South Georgia’s Dooly County, aiming to catch several hundred hogs and keep them from destroying farmers’ cotton fields.
Forty-four states in the country have wild hogs, which are an invasive species from Europe and Asia, not native to the U.S.
“We have 15 states with hog trouble in the South. Our goal is to build the infrastructure where we can train everybody to implement it each winter,” he said.
Pinkston grew up on a pig farm in Illinois before joining the military and going on to coach Olympic shooters.
He hates to hear farmers give up on the land closest to a stream or river because hogs continue to demolish crops there.