Monday, April 11, 2011

Idaho Feral Hog Redux

After their presence was officially determined last year, feral hogs have become a hot topic in Idaho for conservationists and hunters.

What is the latest status of feral hogs in Idaho?

The hogs are still confined to the Bruneau Valley, where despite hunting and control efforts, they remain in signifant herds. A recent story in the Boise Weekly offers an excellent overview of the hogs and the threats they pose.

Hogs are prolific breeders and extremely intelligent. They seek out inaccesible places where hunters can't reach.

The fear is that they could spread to other parts of the state and become a major pest. In other states, like Texas, they have destroyed wildlife habitat and ranch lands. It is estimated they cost that state about $52 million a year.

The thick cover of the Bruneau Valley will make finding hogs a challenge. Added to this is the fact that much of the land is in private ownership, which can make access to the hogs difficult.

But are feral hogs really going to be a problem for Idaho?

Let's face it: While people don't want them established, they are also fascinated by these animals. After all, they are large mammals that thrive in spite of humanity's best efforts.

Certainly hogs could realistically spread along the Bruneau Valley to the Snake River Valley, causing damage to habitat.

Statewide, it seems hard to believe hogs could escape undetected in the sagebrush; the country is just too open. Idaho's habitat and land use is not the same as in Texas, so it appears unlikely that hogs could ever be as problematic.

Obviously, there needs to be control and preferably eradication of these animals.

Hopefully, the level of interest in these hogs can also extend to other, perhaps less dramatic, invasive species.

Cheatgrass, for instance, may not seem as compelling as herds of wild pigs, but its effects on the Idaho landscape are much more devastating than hogs. Aquatic invasive species like zebra and quagga mussels are still not established in Idaho, and you can keep it that way by cleaning your boat and recreational equipment. By not moving firewood, you can keep our forests free of non-native pests.

These actions may not be as exciting as chasing down hogs. But, in the long run, the smaller pests pose much more dramatic threats to Idaho's wildlife, agriculture and economy.

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