August 2015 // Volume 53 // Number 4 // Ideas at Work // v53-4iw7
4-H Southern Swines Feral Hog Challenge
Estimates indicate that the population of feral hogs may exceed 500,000 in Florida. They have proven difficult to manage. Land managers in Florida reported that feral hogs were a significant problem that needed to be addressed. The UF/IFAS St. Lucie County Cooperative Extension conducted the 4-H Southern Swines Feral Hog Challenge to help land managers reduce feral hog populations in a cost-effective manner. This activity was conducted in 2013 and 2014 and resulted in the removal of one hundred and twenty three feral hogs weighing 18, 393 lbs. from the Florida environment.
The UF/IFAS St Lucie County Cooperative Extension addressed the feral hog management problem in South Florida through the 4-H Southern Swines Feral Hog Challenge.
Feral hogs, also called wild hogs, wild boar, and wild pigs, are animals having escaped domestication to become wild. They are the same genus and species as barnyard pigs (Sus scrofa). Feral hogs are common in Florida, with a population estimated to be in excess of 500,000 (Guiliano, 2010). The state has the second largest population of feral hogs following Texas. At least 35 states and Canadian provinces have feral hogs in the environment. Damage natural area land managers often associate with feral hogs are wallowing, aggression, tusking of vegetation, and rooting (Gioeli, 2012).
The Struggle to Address Feral Hog Problems in South East Florida
A feral hog management practices inventory was conducted to determine the nature of the problems experienced by Florida's natural area land managers. A SurveyMonkey survey was distributed via email through networks such as the Florida Invasive Species Partnership and feral hog trappers. Results were published in the 2012 Proceedings of the Florida State Horticulture Society (Gioeli, 2012). Of the 87 natural area land managers who responded to the survey, 70% (60/87) responded that they were managing public lands, while 30% (26/87) were managing private lands. Eighty-two percent (71/87) of the respondents were managing properties larger than 200 acres, while 2.3% (2/87) managed 151-200 acres, 1.1% (1/87) managed 101-150 acres, 4.6% (4/87) managed 51-100 acres, and 10.3% (9/87) managed 50 acres or less. All respondents indicated that rooting was the most frequent feral hog damage they experienced, followed by wallowing at 70% (61/87). Other problems included tusking of woody trees and shrubs at 26% (23/87) and aggression toward humans and domestic animals at 7% (6/87). Overall, surveyed land managers perceived feral hogs as a significant nuisance, and they continued to struggle with damage deemed to be moderate to severe in scope.
The study was conducted to determine the impacts of feral hogs from the natural areas land management perspective. However, a review of literature on the economic impacts of other nuisance wildlife reveal additional issues that could be explored in future expanded studies. For example, an article on the negative economic impacts of nuisance deer in the northeastern United States revealed that deer-vehicle collisions, agricultural crop depredation, and residential landscape destruction had a negative economic impact that reached over $390 million in 2000 (Drake, Paulin, Curtis, Decker, & San Julian, 2005). Similarly, feral hogs are hit by cars throughout Florida, destroy landscapes, and have agricultural impacts that result in negative economic consequences for many Floridians. There is a need for additional research on the economic impacts of feral hogs in Florida.
Extension agents collaborated with 4-H club leaders on the 4-H Southern Swines Feral Hog Challenge. This competitive event was conducted for the first time in October 2013 with a goal of hunting feral hogs from the Florida landscape. Teams were allowed to enter their two heaviest feral hog carcasses for weigh-in. Eleven teams weighed in a total of 22 feral hog carcasses. The combined weight of the hog carcasses was 3,463 lbs. Live feral hogs were not permitted at weigh in.
The 4-H Southern Swines Feral Hog Challenge was continued and expanded in 2014. Rules were posted online (Figure 1). A total of 24 hunting teams participated. A new category, "Most Killed," was added to encourage hunting teams to kill and record more than two feral hogs. The official tally of feral hogs killed in the September 2014 Challenge totaled 101 animals weighing 14,930 lbs. (7.465 tons).
2014 4-H Southern Swines Feral Hog Challenge Rules
The rules of the Challenge were designed to make it clear to participants that safety and legal requirements were priorities. Due to potential controversy with animal rights activists and because of the unconventional nature of this contest, item number one in the rules specifies that all state and federal laws must be followed. Bows, guns, spears, and knives were permitted to humanely dispatch the feral hogs. Alcohol was not permitted on site, and team members were informed in advance that they would be subjected to polygraph if alcohol was suspected. Team members were required to be adults over the age of 18. Live feral hogs were not permitted into this contest to eliminate the likelihood that 4-H'ers could be harmed by these potentially dangerous animals. Compliance with these rules resulted in a safe and productive event with no controversy or accusations of illegal activity.
When examining the role of the 4-H Southern Swines Club, it is apparent they were compatible with the goal of managing feral hogs and were perfectly positioned to conduct the 4-H Southern Swines Feral Hog Challenge. Rogers describes "compatibility" as the degree to which an innovation is consistent with existing values and past experiences of the adopters (Rogers, 1963). Their 4-H club members have experience raising domesticated swine for show in the fair. Their values align perfectly as they understand the need to manage feral hogs to reduce the likelihood of disease transmission from feral hogs to their domesticated breeds.
In total, 4-H volunteers logged 460 hours for the 2014 4-H Southern Swines Feral Hog Challenge resulting in a value of $9,770.40. "Calculation of economic value of trained volunteers' contribution to extension programs: According to 2013 Florida data from the Independent Sector (http://independentsector.org/volunteer_time), the estimated dollar value of a volunteer hour is $21.24. In Extension, trained volunteers are contributing to Extension program by dedicating their time, skills, talents, and expertise under supervision or guidance by faculty."
Overall, the 4-H Southern Swines Feral Hog Challenge in St Lucie County, FL has been a successful innovative program. Extension agents from other Florida counties have expressed an interest in conducting their own feral hog challenges. The experience and values of the members of the 4-H clubs throughout Florida make them well-positioned to conduct these hunting challenges and make a significant impact on feral hogs throughout the state. In fact, these clubs could be well-positioned to address feral hog management problems by hosting feral hog challenges in the 35 states and Canadian provinces where the hogs are found. Fortunately for St Lucie County, the 4-H Southern Swines Feral Hog Challenge resulted in the removal from the environment of 123 nuisance feral hogs weighing a combined 18,393 lbs. in the first 2 years since its inception. The St Lucie County Extension office is available to serve as a resource for other Extension agents struggling with feral hog management issues who discover our feral hog challenge through the Journal of Extension and other outreach efforts.
Drake, D., Paulin, J., Curtis, P., Decker, D., & San Julian, G. (2005) Assessment of negative economic impacts from deer in the northeastern United States. Journal of Extension [On-line], 43(1), Article 1RIB5. Available at: http://www.joe.org/joe/2005february/rb5.php
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. (2007) Florida feral swine trappers. Retrieved from: http://stlucie.ifas.ufl.edu/pdfs/natural_resources/2012/DACS-P-01510_Swine_Trappers.pdf
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. (2011) Florida hunting regulations. Retrieved from: http://myfwc.com/hunting/by-species/wild-hog/
Gioeli, K., & Huffman, J. (2012) Feral hog management practices inventory in Florida. Proceedings of the Florida State Horticultural Society. 125:370–372.
Giuliano, W. (2010) Wild hogs in Florida: Ecology and management. University of Florida/IFAS, EDIS Publ. WEC277. Retrieved from: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw322
Hamrick, B., Smith, M., Jaworowski, C., & Strickland, B. A. (2011) Landowner's guide for wild pig management: Practical methods for wild pig control. Mississippi State University. Retrieved from: http://msucares.com/pubs/publications/p2659.pdf
Rogers, E. (1963) The adoption process II. Journal of Extension [On-line], Summer 1963. Available at: http://www.joe.org/joe/1963summer/1963-2-a2.pdf