DiFATTA: Help the environment, take out a feral hogBy PHIL DIFATTA,
A year or two ago my ol' buddy Chip Tatum, aka The Chipster, called to tell me he and some friends had killed a feral sow (that's a wild female hog). He asked if I wanted it, saying the hog would make for some fine eating, and offered to bring it to me. I gladly accepted … because I know wild pork is as tasty as a homegrown pig. .
But no, it's not like Chip doesn't care about the meat himself, it's just that he kills more wild hogs than he and his family can possibly eat. It's sort of a passion to him. Eliminating as many of the destructive critters as possible is one of his goals in life. And for good reason.
You see, wild hogs are what folks smarter than me (everyone) call opportunistic omnivores. That is, feral hogs will basically eat anything that doesn't eat them first. In addition to devouring native plant life that other wild critters depend on for survival, the hogs can and do destroy any and all farm crops in their path.
According to a report I read from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, a study by the USDA found that wild hogs contribute $1.5 billion in property damage EACH YEAR. That includes forest lands, too. The critters also carry a number of diseases and viruses that affect domestic animals and even humans.
I could go on and on about the devastation created by wild hogs. They eat up native browse. They destroy agricultural fields, and can eat 3-5 percent of their total body weight EVERY day. This means that a 200 pound feral hog will consume about three tons of food per year - food that you and I could use, or native browse that deer, turkeys, rabbits, squirrels, quail, etc. depend on to survive. They eat eggs, frogs, turtles and even fawn deer. You name it, they'll eat it.
So, if there are hunters out there still bemoaning the end of the 2018-19 hunting seasons, find you a farmer whose crops are being destroyed by wild hogs and make him an offer. If your hunting land is being taken over by the feral swine and starving out native game, check hunting regulations, then do your best to eliminate 'em all.
You'll actually never get them all … but it's fun trying. There are precautions you must take, however. For instance, when Chip killed the sow he gave me, he didn't just load it on his truck and bring it to me. He gutted it as soon as possible, then made a stop to get ice, which he placed in the body cavity. That's the ticket this time of year – getting the innards out quickly, then getting the carcass cooled down. The meat should be fine if you do that.
I could go on and on about wild hogs and the problems they create. The way I look at it is if they're gonna make waste of our game populations, forests and farm crops, it's only fair that we hunters make waste (literally) of a few of 'em.
Until next time, have fun and be safe outdoors. Watch out for venomous snakes, protect yourselves from biting bugs and poison plants. Do that and more. And when you get out to enjoy the great outdoors of Mississippi, take a kid with you … every time you can.
PineBelt News outdoor writer Phil DiFatta may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or readers may text photos, with contact info, to 601-596-4475.