MDC: No feral hogs for Share the Harvest despite Ozarks lawmaker’s push – News-Leader
Feral hogs in Missouri: Here’s everything you need to know
Feral hogs in Missouri
Despite the best efforts of an Ozarks-area lawmaker, state conservation officials are refusing to feed feral hog meat to people in financial need.
Former Rep. Robert Ross, R-Yukon, amended the state budget last year to require the Department of Conservation to bring wild pig into its Share the Harvest program.
Currently, the program only pays to process donated deer meet, but Ross said that the department’s efforts to eradicate feral swine — an invasive species that tears up Missouri farmland — merited an expansion.
His amendment doubled the amount appropriated for the program, but only if some of the money was used to process feral hogs.
“It should be expanded to include all of the feral hogs that MDC traps, kills, and then leaves rotting on our beautiful landscape,” he said last year. “Annually, MDC wastes thousands of pounds of nutritious meat.”
Conservation Department officials say the hog meat is no good, though.
Aaron Jeffries, one of the department’s deputy directors, said Thursday that feral hogs can carry a wide variety of diseases, including brucellosis bacteria and parasites.
“I’m not sure why we’d want that,” he said.
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Jeffries added that processing hogs would be a hassle because they’re classified as livestock.
That means they have to come to processors alive, and Jeffries said the department wants to focus on eliminating them, not herding them into trucks and driving them across the state.
He said the department also wants to avoid portraying hogs as food.
“That’s what they did in Texas and the population boomed,” he said. “We’re trying to get rid of them.”
The constitution generally gives the Conservation Commission, which governs the department, broad discretion to set its own budget.
Any challenge to that would likely play out in court.
If such a challenge comes, it wouldn’t be the first fight over the wild pigs.
MDC and the General Assembly have gone back and forth for years about how best to deal with the hogs, which cause millions of dollars in damage to farms and habitat, mostly in the southern part of the state.
The department says the best way to root them out is to have government agents trap the hogs in large groups and then eliminate them.
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Officials say the alternative of allowing private hunters to shoot hogs is inefficient because when one is shot, the rest of the group, or “sounder,” scatters.
To that end, the department banned hunters from taking the hogs on its lands in 2016 and encouraged the federal government to do the same in Mark Twain National Forest in 2019.
They took some heat after that last move, though.
Dozens came to the Capitol to protest, while someone else ignored the new rule and strung up a dead hog next to a sign announcing the ban.
Republican lawmakers from southern Missouri also filed bills threatening the department’s funding, but none passed.
Austin Huguelet is the News-Leader’s politics reporter. Got something he should know? Have a question? Call him at 417-403-8096 or email him at [email protected]