Posted: Aug 15, 2014 12:00 PM by Brock Sues
Updated: Aug 15, 2014 12:03 PM
BATON ROUGE - The amount of damage caused by feral hogs to farmland in Louisiana is on the rise and researchers from the LSU AgCenter want to get a grip on the problem.
Feral swine in the United States cause more than $1.5 billion in damages and control costs every year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Complaints about the hogs from landowners in the southeastern portion of the country have been on the rise.
"I believe Texas reported a damage estimate from feral hogs about five or six years ago to be in the $50 million range," Shaun Tanger said. Tanger is an LSU AgCenter forestry economist who will head up the research with help from commodity groups and the state departments of wildlife and fisheries, agriculture and forestry.
In addition to destroying valuable agricultural crops, feral swine also cause erosion to river banks and can even prey on young livestock, according to Tanger. Tanger said the females begin reproducing at 10 months of age and can have up to two litters of four to eight piglets in a given year.
The researcher also said that while the hog problem is largely confined to rural areas at this point, the rising population could force the animals into urban areas and could cause some headaches for city dwellers. Damage to lawns and golf courses along with the potential for accidents resulting from hogs in the roadways are a very real possibility, according to Tanger.
The LSU AgCenter study will begin with a pair of surveys aimed at Louisiana owners that attempts to put a dollar amount to the increasing damage caused by feral hogs in the state. Tanger said the first step to solving the pig problem begins with understanding the extent of the problem.
The first hog questionnaire will be sent to landowners via email in the next few days with a second, more robust copy of the survey going out with the regular mail shortly thereafter. The initial survey will look to find answers to demographic-type questions such as what parish the land is in, how much land is owned and what crops are produced. The follow-up survey will be much more thorough.
Tanger said Texas and Georgia have done similar studies to get estimates of feral hog damage.
The results of Tanger's study, co-authored by Richard Vlosky and Michael Kaller of the LSU AgCenter, will not only tell how widespread the damage from these animals is, but could also help draw the attention of government officials who may be able to affect policy and ultimately benefit farmers and landowners.