BATON ROUGE, La. – LSU AgCenter researchers are in the process of conducting two surveys of landowners in Louisiana in an effort to put a dollar figure on the amount of damage being done by feral hogs.
LSU AgCenter forestry economist Shaun Tanger will send the first questionnaire by email in the next few days, with a second, longer hard copy survey coming in regular mail shortly thereafter.
Tanger said as the damage caused by feral hogs continues to increase in Louisiana, there needs to be some way to quantify the harm done.
“We know that damage from these animals is on the rise, but we are just not able to detail an amount,” Tanger said. “We have reports of damage from farmers and some other landowners, but we want to get a better picture of the problem.”
Tanger said he is using contact lists from commodity groups and organizations like Farm Bureau, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry and LSU AgCenter county agents.
At present, Tanger said the problem continues to be mainly in rural areas, but as hog numbers increase, they will inevitably move into urban areas causing damage to lawns and golf courses and possible collisions on roads.
“The pigs are known to cause problems with agricultural crops because they can be used for wallows, for forage and for protection,” Tanger said.
The animals cause damage to agricultural crops with tubers that they can root up, but they will damage above-ground crops such as wheat, sorghum, corn, rice, vegetables and fruits as well, he said.
The purpose of the two surveys is related to timing. “I need to get some information in hand pretty quick, and the one-page emailed survey will provide that,” he said. “But the paper survey will be about six pages, so it is designed to capture more detailed information.”
The questions on the first survey will ask demographic-type questions like—what parish do you live in, how much land you own, what crops you produce, what are the damages you’ve sustained and what have you done to prevent damage?
“The second survey will be more robust, asking questions like what are your perceptions of the damage caused by wild hogs, who should be responsible for disseminating information and which agencies, state and federal, would provide financial assistance, if any,” Tanger said. “So it will be a much more thorough investigation.”
Tanger said the second survey will be co-authored by LSU AgCenter forest products professor Richard Vlosky and Michael Kaller, LSU AgCenter wildlife and fisheries specialist.
Tanger said Texas and Georgia are two states that have done studies like this to get estimates of the amount of damage being done by feral hogs.
“I believe Texas reported a damage estimate from feral hogs about five or six years ago to be in the $50 million range,” Tanger said. “With those type numbers, I know there is a southeastern-wide push coming down from the federal government to collaboratively figure this thing out.”
A major problem with feral hogs is their ability to reproduce at an alarming rate.
“The females begin reproducing at around 10 months of age and can have up to two litters of four to eight piglets each per year,” Tanger said.
It is estimated that feral swine in the United States cause more than $1.5 billion in damages and control costs each year, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In addition to destroying crops, feral swine also cause erosion to river banks. They are also “efficient predators and, when given the opportunity, prey upon young livestock and other small animals, such as ground-nesting birds.”
Estimates from the USDA show wild hogs in at least 35 states, with the largest populations in California, Florida, Oklahoma and Texas.
Tanger said the results of his study will not only tell how widespread the damage from these animals is but could also help in bringing the problem to the attention of government officials in ways that may affect policy.