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Hog eradication not pretty, but essential

Forest landowners know there are only two types of land: that which doesn’t have hogs; and that which soon will have hogs.

Feral hogs in the Southeast United States have been a problem for landowners for centuries. First brought to North America in the 1500s by Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto, the free-range swine quickly populated southern forests. Exacerbating the problem in the early 20th century, more aggressive Eurasian wild boars were turned loose for hunters and despite “game-proof” caging, many escaped and mingled their bloodlines with other wild hogs, according to LSU AgCenter information.

The hogs are considered “the most prolific large mammal in North America.” Reaching sexual maturity at about six months, the hogs are capable of having average litters of five to six piglets, and sometimes up to 12. They also can have up to three litters per year. Within a short time, a group, called a sounder, can grow large.

In Winn and Jackson parishes, and Caldwell Parish west of the Ouachita River, the Dugdemona Soil & Water Conservation District is trying to at least make a dent, though the challenge is huge.

Feral Hog Program

Included in the last Farm Bill approved by Congress in 2018, $75 million was appropriated for the Natural Resources Conservation Service nationwide. Louisiana put in for a portion of the money through its soil & conservation districts and was granted $1.3 million for a program to slow the booming population within the district.

Now, Hunter Tolar spends his working days moving, setting up and checking traps within the district. And his nights? Well, sometimes he sits by the smartphone waiting for just the right moment to spring the trap.

Tolar is the feral swine trapper for the Dugdemona district. With the help of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Tolar has made 18 traps and after getting agreements from landowners, sets them up in areas where hog populations are causing damages.

Forest landowner and forester Kevin Daughtery is one of the landowners in Winn Parish who have welcomed the help of Tolar and the feral swine program.

“I’ve been in the woods here for close to 40 years,” Daughtery said. “They root up around a pond, they’ll get out in the mud and really go to town rooting up your stuff. You can’t have food plots. You can’t have an unfenced feeder. It really limits what you can do (for wildlife).”

And that is an added benefit of the swine trapping program for Dugdemona S&WCD: Eliminate the hogs from an area (at least until sounders from other areas show up) and sought-after wildlife and game will come.

Wildlife Returns

Glenn Austin is the district conservationist for NRCS based in Natchitoches — Winn Parish is included in his coverage area — said reducing the population of feral swine helps other wildlife. It isn’t that the different species compete so much for the same food. It’s more like not wanting to associate with some family members.

“It’s like drunk relatives,” Austin quipped. “You just don’t want to be around them.”

The damage, however, does extend to some wildlife. Austin, who has been with the NRCS for 36 years, said feral hogs are opportunists and will eat almost anything, which includes ground nesting birds, like turkey.

So, getting rid of the swine is just good forest management, he said.

In one spot on Daughtery’s land, Tolar’s trap caught about 90 hogs. A game camera showed only hogs all over the area.

“When we first put that trap up there, it was just solid hogs,” he said. “Now, I get pictures of deer and turkeys.”

Landowner Responsibilities

Landowners within the Dugdemona S&WCD need to be prepared for some things to be part of the program, Austin said. First, they have to be able to show them where the hogs are.

“I always ask them to pre-bait the area,” Austin said. “We don’t require that, but it helps.”

Pre-baiting will get the sounder to be accustomed to a particular area of a property.

Traps are custom-made 4-foot-by-4-foot panels. Each section is put together in a circle large enough to hold several hogs. Then the site is baited. On a cool September morning, Tolar and Austin used corn feed that was accented with a strawberry scent. Tolar will test the gate by dropping it remotely, then set it and check on it periodically. Most of his trapping, however, is done at night.

Once trapped, the hogs have to be discarded. Landowners have to be prepared by deciding before hogs are trapped where the carcasses will be disposed, as well as being available to have someone discard them.

Disposal of the carcasses is the landowners’ responsibility.

Daughtery said he has a place to dispose the hogs on his property. When Tolar calls telling him the trap in his forest has been sprung and hogs have to be euthanized and disposed of, Daughtery has to be ready.

“It takes work and commitment,” Dauthery said. “You have to be available.”

In many cases, whatever is disposed of in the forest is cleared out in a short amount of time.

“As much as you would think it would be a problem to dump eight or 10 hogs in a spot, they’re gone in a couple days,” Daughtery said.

Program Importance

Daughtery thinks the program is essential for more than Winn Parish. He would like to see it done statewide.

Although Louisiana law prohibits anyone from transporting live hogs, Daughtery said he doesn’t believe that is the problem. Most forested land does not have fences along property lines. So, the feral hogs have free range from one person’s property to another.

“It will slow down (the population) and eventually stop at one spot,” he said. “You need to move it.”

Daughtery also understands the problem some people might have with the trapping, killing and disposing of the hogs, but it is an invasive species that harms land and water quality.

“You can take a pine plantation and lose a great deal of seedlings,” the forester said. ... “Let’s face it — there is no happy, pretty way to do this hog eradication.”

Every year, row crop farmers report millions of dollars in damages from eat-outs, where hogs consume acres of their crops. The trouble is wide-spread. As more land is developed, hogs are encroaching onto more residential areas and rooting up flowerbeds.

For the Dugdemona S&WCD, Tolar covers Winn and Jackson Parishes and Caldwell west of the Ouachita River. He can be reached at 318-628-0464 or by email at for more information about the program.

Austin, whose NRCS district covers Natchitoches, Winn, Grant and Rapides parishes, can be contacted at NRCS office in Natchitoches at 318-357-8366 ext. 3 or by email at


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