Feral hogs, generally viewed as the most destructive element in Arkansas wildlife habitat, can be combated and even put to some welcomed use.
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission personnel, along with some other participants including hunters, have worked hard on the wild hog problem on Choctaw Island Wildlife Management Area.
They have killed roughly 150 hogs in recent months on the area, but they haven't just dug pits and buried the carcasses.
These hogs have been taken to needy families in the Dumas and Monticello areas, said Roger Milligan, AGFC's district wildlife supervisor in that part of the state.
Milligan said, "We usually gut the hogs, and if we have time we may skin them. People are glad to get the hogs. They'll tell us 'Yes, bring me a hog when you get one.' We do ask them to sign a waiver of liability when we give them a hog."
AGFC bought the Choctaw Island tract in 2001.
It is 8,300 acres on the Mississippi River in Desha County, a place with immense potential for wildlife.
Along with the rich bottomland, the acquisition included a sizable population of wild hogs.
Hogs are terrors in wildlife habitat.
They root up plantings, grasses, shrubs, young trees. They raid and destroy ground nests of turkeys and other birds.
They compete with deer for food and usually hold the upper hand in this competition.
The AGFC has a deer research project underway on Choctaw Island that led to the campaign against hogs.
Large nets are rigged to trap deer so radio transmitter collars can be fitted on them for tracking and monitoring purposes.
Milligan said, "We use corn for bait under these nets, and the hogs just clean out the corn. They didn't let the deer get to it. So we raised the nets, let the hogs come in then we dropped the nets on them."
The netted hogs were shot, the carcasses field dressed then taken to needy families.
Milligan said 41 hogs were caught with the use of the nets, and others were killed by AGFC personnel and by hunters in various places on the management area.
The problem has been lessened but not eliminated, Milligan said.
"We estimate we have 40 to 50 hogs still on Choctaw. If you don't keep working on them, they'll increase in a hurry," he said. "They have big litters, and at about six months old, those babies are ready to breed too. You have to keep after them. A lot depends on your neighbors with wild hogs too. If you eliminate them on your land, and your neighbors don't do it too, then you've still got a hog problem."
A recent change in AGFC regulations for its management areas allows hunters to go after hogs when other hunting seasons are open.
On private land, feral hogs can be hunted or trapped year-round and it is illegal to release them into the wild on public lands or on unfenced private property.
The problem of wild hogs is present in all areas of the state, Arkansas Game and Fish wildlife officials said, not just on the agency's management areas.