A multiagency effort to eliminate feral hogs statewide, which is concentrated in southeast Missouri, is showing impressive progress in the last five years.

The first quarterly "dashboard" report has been released by the Missouri Feral Hog Elimination Partnership (MFHEP).

The MFHEP reports 3,538 feral hogs were removed and euthanized from January through March 2020.

Extrapolating for the entire year, 14,152 should be eradicated by Dec. 31.

For entire year of 2015, only 3,649 of the wild swine were taken in Missouri.

If the trend holds, the overall increase since '15 will be 287 percent.

The interagency partnership is made up of the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Wildlife Service.

A county-by-county three-month list of euthanized feral hogs shows they came from 32 of the state's 88 counties, all in the southern part of Missouri.

"Feral hogs are detrimental to our (state's) agriculture industry and to Missouri's natural resources," said Jason Jensen, MDC incident commander for feral hog operations.

If the initiative sounds more like an infantry battalion going to war, it is by design.

"Our effort is based on a military model," he said. "Feral hogs are smart, incredibly destructive, and hard to bait into a trap.

"We have staff all around the state trapping feral hogs every day," Jensen said, adding it has been illegal since 2016 to hunt the animals on conservation areas.

"We used to encourage hunting," he said, "but (hunting) made the problem exponentially worse because it dispersed (hogs) who simply moved into new areas."

MDC said feral hogs are not indigenous to Missouri and started to show up in the state in the mid-1990s.

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A feral hog is defined by the conservation agency as any hog, including wild boar, not identifiable by ear tags or other identification and roaming freely on public or private land without the land manager's or landowner's permission.

For those concerned about the decision to kill rather than confine feral hogs, Jensen is unequivocal.

"(Feral hogs) are not wildlife and are incredibly destructive," he said.

Jensen cited an incident during the course of one evening, in which a sounder, or family group, made a cornfield look like it had been bush hogged.

"Sounders" are made up of anywhere from eight to 30 feral hogs.

"They root up pastures, hay fields, even golf courses," said Jensen, "and they will eat literally anything."

Jensen adds a feral hog can do damage to glades and springs.

They also carry disease which can be passed onto livestock.

"The high potential for disease is why (MDC) resists harvesting feral hog meat for food pantries," said Jensen, adding this idea has been discussed in the Missouri General Assembly.

The partnership has divided the state into six "elimination" zones to remove the feral hogs, Jensen said.

"Our goal is to eliminate them, not manage them," said Jensen, who added their eradication is one of MDC's top priorities.

In a conservation area, feral hogs are trapped, euthanized by partnership personnel and left to decompose in the field.

On private property, after euthanization, the landowner has discretion on the disposition of carcasses.

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