Kentucky finalizing ban on hunting feral swine in hopes of slowing their advance

Published 4:42 pm Thursday, May 16, 2024

By Liam Niemeyer

Kentucky Lantern

Because an “educated” pig is harder to track or trap, Kentucky is taking steps to prevent the hunting of feral hogs known to damage crops, woodlands and potentially spread disease.

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Kentucky wildlife management officials are finalizing a ban on the hunting of wild pigs in an effort to more easily capture them. Under the new regulation, pigs could still be shot if they’re damaging private land, although wildlife experts are encouraging landowners to instead contact the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources to have the animals removed.

Steven Fields, an attorney for the department, told lawmakers during a legislative hearing earlier this week that if a sounder — the name for a herd of wild swine — knows it’s being hunted, the sounder avoids humans and shifts its activities to night, making it harder to track.

The Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission, the governing board overseeing the KDFWR, voted in December to approve a regulation eliminating the existing year-round hunting season for wild hogs.

Ben Robinson, the wildlife division director at the state agency, told the board the department was trying to prevent “anybody from shooting a pig at any time” because it can make feral hogs hard to trap en masse, something state and federal officials have actively been pursuing.

“It goes against what we’re trying to do with our trapping efforts by educating these pigs, making them much more difficult to trap,” Robinson said in December. “We’re having a lot of success with our partners, [U.S. Fish and] Wildlife Service, USDA, in trapping these animals and keeping them out of Kentucky. So by allowing landowners to just shoot freely, that goes against what we’re trying to do.”Robinson said other wildlife management agencies in the South had recommended the Kentucky agency take measures to prevent a problematic “pig hunting culture” from being established.

The agency has been encouraging  Kentuckians to refrain from shooting feral hogs and instead report sightings so that the animals can be trapped and removed.

U.S. Department of Agriculture data as of January 2024 shows the range of feral hog populations including parts of Eastern Kentucky, Northern Kentucky and counties near the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. Wild pig populations have been steadily moving northward and westward, according to the USDA.

Feral hogs can carry a number of diseases harmful to wildlife, livestock and humans, along with causing billions of dollars in agricultural damages across the country. One analysis highlighted Kentucky as one of the top 15 states affected by invasive wild pigs.