by Allie Doise, Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation
The last thing farmers want to do after working 12 to 14 hours a day is stay up all night to catch hogs.
However, the danger they present can keep people awake all night. Feral hogs can destroy up to 20 acres of corn in a single evening. As a result, Casey Messenger, a Natchitoches Parish farmer, was one of the first to sign up with the Natchitoches Soil and Water Conservation District (SWDC) to allow the USDA to shoot hogs from a helicopter on his property.
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Wildlife Service was using aerial gunning to remove hogs from wildlife refuges. They wanted to expand their success and reach out to local landowners, so they invited them to participate in the aerial gunning program for a fee.
“We spread the word and had several meetings with land owners,” Sidney Evans, Natchitoches SWDC chairman, said. “Many signed up and we ended up with about 40,000 acres enrolled the first year.”
During the first year, hunters and trappers removed more than 1,200 hogs from the parish. Messenger said he has been satisfied with the program’s success so far.
“They killed right at 40 hogs the first year we signed up in the program,” Messenger said. “The second year, they killed 50-something hogs in this area.”
Benny Dobson, Natchitoches SWDC member, said this program even helps landowners who are not signed up in the program, as the feral hog population migrates from farm to farm.
“They can be my hogs today,” Dobson said. “And they can be your hogs tomorrow.”
The efforts of the Natchitoches SWCD, APHIS and other federal and state agencies are helping reduce the feral hog population in Natchitoches Parish.
“It’s a cooperative effort,” Evan said. “No one entity could do it alone.”