Miami Herald – Business
Oklahoma ranchers learn to address wild hog overpopulation
The Lawton Constitution, The Associated Press May 7, 2018
Meers, Okla. John Zelbst has been at war at his ranch near Meers.
Wild hogs — vicious animals with an appetite for corn and a penchant for destruction — have made their way into the Oklahoma wilderness and have run amok unchecked by any natural predator. The invasive species tears up the ground, destroys fences and other structures, kills livestock and has driven many farmers, like Zelbst, to their wits end.
“We were having ranch employees work on the problem to trap and kill them as much as we could,” he said. “It’s so bad, they wore us out. It took so much manpower to trap them that they beat us. They won.”
Zelbst isn’t alone. The wild hog is a scourge upon the land that has left many farmers, ranchers and landowners throwing up their arms in complete defeat. In an effort to help alleviate the situation, the Great Plains Technology Center, with coordination by Agri-Business Management Coordinator Clint Janda, recently hosted an outreach meeting organized by the Comanche County, Cotton County, South Caddo County and Tillman County Conservation Districts. Josh Gaskamp, a researcher at the Noble Research Center and the main speaker of the meeting, talked to the packed crowd about how there’s a good chance everything they know about addressing the wild hog problem could be wrong, the Lawton Constitution reported.
“If you’re going to catch more pigs, you have to use multiple techniques,” he said. “But many of these techniques that are being implemented may be doing more harm than good.”
Gaskamp detailed the epidemic that the men and women in the room were facing. To help make the pork market more efficient, the pork industry genetically targeted the largest breeds of pigs that reproduced quickly and grew rapidly. Dubbed the “super hog,” Gaskamp said humans created their own worst nightmare by trying to ensure everyone has a ham on the table for Christmas and Easter and bacon on the plate in the morning alongside their eggs. These pigs have no natural predators aside from humans and can adapt to survive in just about any situation.
“There’s not a habitat that you can put in a pig in where it won’t survive,” he said.
So how did this plague begin? Zelbst said hogs were introduced into this part of the state by individuals who raised them as pets or for food and simply let them go. Others, as Gaskamp said, escaped from farms. Genetically chosen to breed quickly, the populations exploded and one or two pigs turned into dozens, if not hundreds, within a short amount of time. They have an “opportunistic diet,” which means they’re willing to eat just about anything and can survive in the harshest of conditions, such as Oklahoma summers. And they leave a path of destruction in their wake.
“They’ve torn up our fences,” Zelbst said. “They’ve torn up our yards and homes. They show up where you feed cattle and tear things up everywhere.”
The simplest and easiest solution is to shoot the hogs either by hunting or as they’re spotted. That doesn’t work, Zelbst said not really.
“You can’t shoot your way out of this problem,” he said. “There’s just too many. They breed faster than you can kill them. That’s why I’m here, to hopefully find out about new research into methods to stop them.”