The Ohio Division of Wildlife is getting ever more worried about the mushrooming population of wild pigs in the state, and they're asking deer hunters, or any other kind of archer or gunner to kill them at every opportunity. So, area outdoorsmen who like to hunt in southern, southeastern, and even eastern Ohio just might find their sport more exciting than usual this fall.
The animals have been reported in 18 counties so far, with the closest being Knox and Hocking, and there's little question that it'll soon be 20 counties, then 25, then more. Where did they come from? Some of the pigs, also called razorbacks or wild boars, might have come in from West Virginia or Kentucky (they're good swimmers), but most are escapees from commercial hunting farms in southern and southeastern Ohio. They're kept inside so-called hog proof fences, but hogs are smart, smarter than dogs, and they often find a way to wiggle through or dig under the wire.
Once free, they have essentially no predators and can reproduce at will. That reproduction is exponential. Sows have an average of 6-8 young and survival of the piglets is high, so the population can double or better every year. Why is this of concern to hunters? Because you need to show a little caution in their home territory. They might run, probably will, but a 400 pound boar with an attitude just might decide to run your way, rather than elsewhere.
They're mean, short tempered animals that average 300 pounds, but might reach 600 pounds or even more, and are equipped with razor sharp tusks that can cut a woods walker to pieces. The sows are nearly as bad, at least when they're guarding a litter of young. Right now, there is no closed hunting season on wild pigs and no limits, and they can be shot anytime, night or day.
How many are roaming the tall timber further south? The Division of Wildlife estimates around two thousand, but one veteran hunter in southern Ohio who loves to hunt them with dogs estimated that the number is closer to 15,000, and growing rapidly. The correct number is probably somewhere in-between.
The Division of Wildlife would like to eliminate this invasive species, not just trim their numbers, but ELIMINATE the animals. It isn't going to happen. One Ohio biologist speculated that if we killed 80 percent of the population this fall and winter, the pigs could breed right back to original numbers in a couple of years. And we're not likely to kill 80 percent.
The DOW has good reasons to want to get completely rid of wild hogs, and a major one is that they're incredibly destructive. A herd of them will root up an acre of land until it looks like a crazed bulldozer has been through, and they wreck havoc on farm crops like corn. They also eat anything remotely edible, and that includes rare plants and animals like red-backed salamanders and short-tailed voles. And they love the eggs of ground nesting birds like pheasants and quail.
They're disease ridden too, hosting at least 32 parasites from liver flukes and kidney worms to tape worms and lung worms. The parasites don't seem to bother the hogs much, but they're catastrophic if passed on to domestic pigs. There is one bright spot in this dark picture the animals are tasty, very tasty, with meat that's both low fat and high protein. It would be wise to dress them wearing latex gloves, and cook the meat thoroughly, but if you like an unusually good pork, they're waiting. And if you find a herd and can kill five or even 10, you're welcome to do so. And fill your freezer for the entire winter.
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ohio Department of Natural Resouces, Division of Watercraft, will have a nine-hour boating education course from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 8 at the Sandusky ODNR watercraft office, 1630 Sycamore Line. A $5 fee is required. Call (419) 621-1402 for details.
Young hunters across Ohio again enjoyed success during the Fifth Annual Youth Deer-Gun Season. Hunters age 17 and under killed 10,515 deer during the special two-day season, while last year's youth hunt saw a deer harvest of 8,811. The Division of Wildlife estimated that 40,000 young hunters took to the field during the brief season.
It isn't necessary to be smart to be a poacher, and two men recently proved the point again. The steelhead poachers, one from Gates Mill and the other from France, pleaded guilty recently to poaching steelhead from a tributary of the Chagrin River. The two men made a home video of their illegal activity and posted it on the popular YouTube video sharing Web where it was discovered by viewers and reported to the Division of Wildlife. The two men were each fined $250 in Lyndhurts Municipal Court.
Water pollution has not disappeared in Ohio. In fact, it's getting worse. According to a report released by an environmental group, Environment Ohio, recently, Ohio ranked first in the nation in the number of times its major factories and cities released an unauthorized amount of harmful chemicals and untreated sewage into our waterways. The non-profit group looked at 2005 water pollution data from cities and industries that were deemed by the U.S. EPA to release a significant amount of toxins into major waterways. Ohio had a total of 1,797 instances in which industrial facilities and cities exceeded levels allowed by permits.