Area looking over options to address invasive hog species
(Reprinted from above link)
Since the early 2000s, Land Between the Lakes has seen a steady uptick in invasive wild hog species within the national recreation area.
In response to the growing number of these species, LBL is beginning to take a look at ways to curb the growing population of hogs. Among those considerations is federal assistance eradicating the species through the use of helicopters and sharpshooting.
Chris Joyner, public affairs officer for LBL, said employees had captured some 70 of these hogs throughout 2018. Just last week, Joyner said they captured 26 of the hogs. He also said that capturing alone would not be enough to curb the impact the species would potentially have.
“Around 2005, we started getting our first reports of wild hogs at LBL,” Joyner said. “There had been a history of a few getting out here and there back when farms were there before TVA took over. But there were no hogs that really got established.”
Joyner said the number of hogs began to increase around 2016, and in since then, LBL has been trying to keep up with addressing the situation.
“It really started spiking in 2016 and we have been having the animal plant health inspection service help us with trapping them for a couple of years now,” he said. “We trapped over 70 in 2018, and they advised us back in November that trapping alone was not going to be enough. So they encouraged us to look at some more aggressive measures.”
Among those options are utilizing federally funded sharpshooters who would utilize helicopters to spot and shoot these hogs.
“They recommended that to us and we have been doing an analysis of how many hogs we actually have,” Joyner said. “Last week we actually trapped 26 of them, but we don’t really know how many there are in LBL.”
Joyner said they were doing an analysis now to see if that will be a viable option. One factor they are looking at is safety of such a process.
“We have to think about safety,” he said. “It has been incredibly safe and there is a good history of doing this, but we do want to be sure that safety is a priority. We have to plan for worst case scenarios.”
Joyner said there are some 1.7 million visitors to LBL every year, and the introduction of vehicles like helicopters could create some distractions for those who go to LBL to relax.
“When you start introducing helicopters, that takes away from the experience people expect when they come out to LBL,” Joyner said. “We would have to look at closures, and because we aren’t a park, we might have to shut down entire areas while we are doing this.”
Joyner said LBL is working with agencies in both Kentucky and Tennessee to come up with the best option for addressing the problem. The helicopter option has been suggested by APHIS, as well as both state wildlife agencies.
Joyner said that to some people, hunting the hogs might seem like a viable option, and he noted that he had received several emails just this week from hunters saying they would be eager to try and help curb population numbers. He said, however, that such an effort would more than likely lead to a greater dispersion of the hogs throughout LBL and make them harder to deal with in the long run.
“Hunting alone is not effective, and that is one of the things that is probably most frustrating for the public,” he said. “Yesterday alone, I got nine emails from people saying they are ready to come out and hunt these hogs. But we have been advised by our state partners not to allow hunting because the animals will disperse and become harder to track and eradicate. Hunting at best can only effectively get about 30 percent of their population.”
Joyner said it is believed that these hogs might have been introduced by parties who wished to hunt them in the past. He said he wanted to remind people that such actions can result in multiple felony charges, hefty fines and the suspension of hunting licenses in 48 states.
“We do believe that the animals were released intentionally for hunting opportunities,” he said. “So we don’t want to encourage illegal behavior by hunting these hogs, because we are afraid more people will just do this in the future.”
Joyner said these hogs create problems for LBL because there is a possibility such animals could disturb heritage sites strewn throughout the area.
“There is the potential for damage to heritage sites,” he said. “We have about 170 grave sites here in LBL, and these animals could go into these areas and start rooting things up and causing damage.”
Joyner said the hogs also have an impact on the turkey population in LBL, as they will kill turkeys and eat their eggs. This creates even more problems, as LBL is considered a prime destination for turkey hunters.
“The more immediate impact is these animals kill turkeys and eat turkey eggs,” Joyner said. “A lot of people don’t realize this, but LBL is a Mecca for turkey hunting. This is one of those destination spots you go to for turkey hunting, and a lot of folks are concerned about this.”