ROLLA, Mo. (May 17, 2019) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service posted a notice in the Federal Register last week asking for public comment in an open and transparent process on a proposal to prohibit the hunting of feral swine on the Mark Twain National Forest. The proposal is part of a larger effort to control an invasive animal species whose rooting and foraging behavior causes nearly $2.4 billion in damage and control costs to farmers, landowners and to the local, state and federal agencies charged with managing those lands for the good of all. Farmers and landowners alone sustain nearly $800 million in damages each year.
Feral hogs destroy agricultural crops, hay fields and wildlife habitat while reducing water quality, contributing to soil erosion and the destruction of sensitive natural areas such as forests, glades, fens, and springs. There are feral swine problems in 37 Missouri counties, most of which fall within the Mark Twain National Forest, and which threaten about 1.4 million acres of your national forest land in Missouri.
Mark Twain National Forest proposes to ban the take, pursuit or release of feral swine on the forest based on a request made by the Missouri Department of Conservation, and as part of the Missouri Feral Hog Partnership.
“The Forest Service supports the elimination of feral swine as an essential step in the conservation of our public lands and to ease the enormous financial burden this invasive species puts on Missouri farmers and other private landowners,” said Mark Twain Forest Supervisor Sherri Schwenke. “Shooting one or two swine scatters the sounder; and it makes trapping efforts to catch the entire group more difficult, because swine become trap-shy and more wary of baited sites.”
Examples from other states and from large areas of private land in Missouri show that only allowing state and federal entities, and their contractors, to manage feral swine elimination yields the best results and decreases the desire for releasing and hunting swine by the public.
The Forest Service will consider public comments to determine if the proposal should be implemented as presented, implemented with modifications, or decline to implement a closure.
For more information, and to view the proposed Forest Closure Order, visit http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/mtnf/feralswine. The public may submit comments via email or through regular mail during the 60-day comment period. The comment period begins May 24, and comments must be received or postmarked no later than July 23, 2019 for consideration. Send comments via email to SM.FS.MTFeralSwine@usda.gov or to the mailing address is at: Forest Supervisor; ATTN: Feral Swine Comment; Mark Twain National Forest; 401 Fairgrounds Road; Rolla, MO 65401.
The Mark Twain National Forest will host a public open house for those who wish to provide comments in person. The open house is from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., June 18, 2019, at the Signature Event Center, 1701 Martin Springs Drive, in Rolla, MO.
Feral swine are not wildlife. According to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) feral swine—which can include domesticated pigs released or escaped to the wild—are an invasive species that destroys and damages wildlife habitat. Wildlife compete for food, habitat and water, and the presence of feral swine often deter wildlife from their natural habitat.
Feral swine also prey directly on the nests, eggs, and young of native ground nesting birds and reptiles, including threatened or endangered species. Game birds such as wild turkeys, grouse, and quail can also be affected. Feral swine have even been documented killing and eating deer fawns, and actively hunting small mammals, frogs, lizards, and snakes. In many areas they wallow in mud and water, which creates prime mosquito habitat that contributes to the prevalence and transmission of various mosquito-borne diseases to native wildlife. Feral swine also can alter the understory growth of forests – public and private – through rooting and foraging.
More information about feral swine is on the USDA APHIS website.