An increase in wild hog sightings in Kentucky and Tennessee has state wildlife agencies looking for new eradication methods. An article in the Paducah Sun reported that agencies are considering aerial gunning or use of professionals to shoot the wild pigs from helicopters.
Since 2016, increasing numbers of wild pigs have been sighted in the southern part of Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area (LBL), located on a peninsula between Kentucky and Barkley lakes in Western Kentucky and Tennessee. Since wild hog hunting was disallowed in 2015, LBL has been trapping hogs. However, the recreation area's management was advised in late November to adopt a more intensive strategy, said Chris Joyner, public information officer for LBL.
In addition to carrying at least 30 diseases and 40 parasites that are communicable to people, pets and wildlife, wild hogs destroy crops and ecosystems and displace native species. Joyner said they also damage cultural sites like graveyards, of which there are 270 in Land Between the Lakes.
The largest pig populations are currently concentrated in the south, near Dover, Tenn., but sightings have been trending north. Agencies believe the increase in hog sightings since 2016 is due to people illegally releasing them into the recreation area to hunt them, Joyner said.
Although trapping is the most effective method of getting rid of the hogs, it's a challenge to trap the swine in large numbers in LBL, as the technology requires cellphone service, which is weak in the area, according to Terri Brunjes, a wildlife biologist who specializes in hogs with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
Wild pigs are highly prolific—females typically produce two litters a year, resulting in at least 70% of the population that needs to be eliminated annually.
Because hunting can’t keep up with the population growth, agencies are looking into aerial solutions. LBL hasn't yet made a decision about its eradication efforts or decided on a timeline, the article said.
With threats of African swine fever looming, the U.S. pork industry is paying close attention to wild pig populations throughout the country.
“If a foreign animal disease, such as ASF, were to enter the U.S. (the U.S. does not have ASF at this time), wild or feral pigs could play a big part in its spread to domestic swine,” said Brandon Gunn, executive vice president of the Texas Pork Producers Association.