Feral Hogs: Bad for Missouri

Usually, when the subject of feral hogs is brought up, I get two questions: “Do we have them in Missouri?” and “Are they a problem?”

Right now we know that feral hogs are established in more than 20 of Missouri’s 114 counties. These counties are predominantly in the southern half of the state with at least one pocket of pigs north of the Missouri River. Hogs are considered feral (or wild) when they are not marked to show ownership and are roaming freely.

Where Did They Come From?

Missouri’s feral hogs have originated from a variety of sources such as escapes from “on-the-ground” hog operations, released pets (potbellied pigs) and accidental escapes from licensed shooting preserves that offer hog hunts. Today most hog operators are considered commercial and keep all of their hogs in confinement buildings.

Feral hogs in Missouri are not exactly late-breaking news; a few counties in the south central and southwest Ozarks have had free-roaming hogs for a number of years. Those populations were small, isolated and kept in check by hunters and local hog trappers.

It wasn’t until the 1990s that the feral hog situation in Missouri began to change. Hog hunting as a form of recreation began gaining in popularity, and the intentional illegal release of hogs to provide more hunting opportunity on public land spread feral hog populations to new areas. Because feral hogs are very adaptable and prolific, it didn’t take long until their numbers started growing at an alarming rate, and we started getting numerous damage complaints from private landowners.

Feral Hog Problems

Feral hogs cause a wide variety of problems and are a serious concern for private landowners, fish and wildlife managers, and nature enthusiasts of all kinds. They are very destructive to sensitive natural areas such as glades, fens and springs. Their tendency to wallow in wet areas can destroy these types of important habitats. The rooting and feeding behavior of feral hogs also contributes to soil erosion and reduces water quality.

They are omnivorous and will consume reptiles and amphibians. They have even been known to kill and eat deer fawns. They also relish the eggs of ground-nesting birds. Basically anything that lives on the ground is a potential meal for a feral hog.

Feral hogs also forage heavily on acorns. Because many wildlife species in the Ozarks depend on acorns for their main food source, any acorns consumed by feral hogs come at the expense of Missouri’s native