• By Ryan McGeeney •
County agents with the Cooperative Extension Service, part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, will serve as a leading edge in educating Arkansans about potential damages posed by feral hogs and the state’s efforts to eradicate them.
Feral hogs are an invasive species known for damaging both agricultural and wild areas, often denuding areas of native plants, acorns and other food and cover that animals rely on. They are known to host at least 45 animal diseases and parasites. In Arkansas alone, feral hogs inflict an estimated $19 million in row crop damage annually, according to a 2014 study.
Becky McPeake, Extension wildlife specialist and professor for the Division of Agriculture, said CES offices throughout the state will be among several state agencies to soon begin distributing the Arkansas Feral Hog Handbook, a product of the Arkansas Department of Agriculture, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The 20-page handbook is an educational tool of the Arkansas Feral Hog Eradication Task Force, which was established in 2017. Material in the handbook was based on publications from the Division of Agriculture and other partner organizations, McPeake said.
The handbook, available in print and online, will also be available through the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts, Arkansas Game and Fish, Arkansas Farm Bureau and other partnering organizations.
It can be viewed and downloaded at no cost at https://bit.ly/3lxJeXo.
In addition to making the handbooks available, Cooperative Extension agents will lead multiple public education efforts, including landowner education about feral hog trap demonstrations and best practice discussions. Cooperative Extension will also continue ongoing research, including monitoring hog-related damage, evaluating the effectiveness of various control measures and experimenting with cutting-edge technologies.
“Feral hogs are destructive to our state’s agriculture and forest industries, and directly compete with native wildlife for habitat,” she said. “They have a high reproductive capacity and can overtake the landscape fairly quickly. It’s going to require a concerted effort among private landowners, government agencies, and conservation organizations to fend off the ever-growing population of feral hogs in the state.”
Populations have been detected in every county in Arkansas and are known to multiply quickly — a sow can produce one to two litters in a year, with four to 12 piglets per year. Because they become sexually active within six to eight months, populations can double in as few as four months, according to the handbook.
Ryan McGeeney is a communications specialist with the University of Arkansas. He may be reached at email@example.com