1 month ago

Feral hog population in Alabama shows no decline

Despite an increased effort to mitigate the impact of feral hogs in Alabama, the hog population shows no indication of decline.

“Unfortunately, it appears their numbers are continuing to increase,” said Matt Brock, Technical Assistance Wildlife Biologist with the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division. “I’m basing that on talking to people and on reports from areas that haven’t had hogs before.”

Brock is also basing that theory on the number of feral hogs harvested by hunters during the 2019-2020 season. Disturbingly, that total exceeded the number of white-tailed deer taken during the same period. According to the WFF’s annual hunter survey, it was estimated that about 218,000 deer were harvested. The number of feral hogs taken was estimated at about 255,000.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), feral hogs cause more than $1.5 billion in damages to property, agricultural interests (crops and livestock), native wildlife and ecosystems as well as cultural and historic resources.

Brock said as part of the Farm Bill passed by Congress, a large, comprehensive program is underway in Alabama to try to stop the spread of feral hogs, particularly in areas of heavy agriculture. The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is conducting pilot projects in the Alabama Black Belt, the Wiregrass and on the Alabama Gulf Coast.

The Black Belt Project focuses on four watersheds covering almost 85,000 acres in Sumter County. The Wiregrass Project consists of 17 watersheds in Geneva, Houston and Henry counties. The Gulf Coast Project encompasses eight watersheds totaling almost 182,000 acres in Escambia and Baldwin counties.

The projects include purchasing feral hog traps with the latest technology, which allows the traps to be triggered remotely.

“They are trapping on the properties of private landowners with a long history of hog problems around agricultural areas,” Brock said. “They are offering this service to those private landowners in the designated watersheds and have hired several technicians to operate the traps. The end goal is not just to remove those hogs but to leave those landowners with the resources and knowledge to continue those trapping efforts once the pilot project ends. That’s a pretty big deal, getting that education out to the landowners to understand how to use the latest technology. I’m very glad to see that.”

One of the problems with feral hogs is the invasive species’ ability to rapidly reproduce. Brock said a typical litter is four to eight piglets, but he has heard of litters as large as 14. Some feral hogs can reach sexual maturity at six months. The gestation period is about 112 to 115 days.

“The sows will generally be close to weaning their litter before being bred again,” he said. “In theory, sows can have three litters every 14 months. Most of the time, they have one or two litters a year. Another thing is the piglets have a very high survival rate. They have very few predators because momma can be pretty aggressive toward anything that messes with her little ones.”

Brock said the bulk of today’s feral swine population in Alabama originated from hogs brought to America in the Mobile area by the Spanish in the early 1500s. He said he has seen some indication that some areas have hybrid stock that includes Eurasian wild boar characteristics.

“That area around Mobile is one of the first places in the United States to have hogs,” he said.

“It’s ironic to me that those hogs pretty well stayed in that drainage for about 400 years until we had gas-powered vehicles,” Brock noted, referencing the fact that the spread of feral hogs was very limited until humans started to transport the swine to other areas. Currently, feral hogs have been reported in all of Alabama’s 67 counties.

“A lot of their movement in the past 30 to 50 years has been in the back of a livestock trailer and then released,” Brock said of a practice that has been outlawed in the state.

“Now, once a hog becomes a person’s possession by either capturing or hunting, it cannot be released alive,” he said. “It must be killed on-site.”

Brock said before the COVID-19 restrictions, WFF partnered with other agencies to actively educate the public on the feral swine problem.

“We had landowner workshops planned that we had to cancel,” he said. “We are going to try to get those rolling again as soon as possible. I think the workshops go a long way in providing knowledge and resources landowners need to take care of some of these hog problems.”

Brock said the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) has purchased several remote-activated traps that have been deployed on public lands – wildlife management areas (WMAs) and special opportunity areas (SOAs) with feral hog populations.

“Part of the management on those WMAs and SOAs with hog problems is to try to efficiently remove as many of those animals as quickly as possible,” he said. “This trap design can be extremely effective in accomplishing this.”

For the private landowners with hog problems, Brock said the NRSC also has a program that will help reimburse the cost of equipment and resources to deal with the hogs under certain conditions.

“If three landowners in close proximity sign up, the NRSC has some cost-share programs for those landowners to collectively purchase a trap,” he said. “The landowners have to document the hog damage before implementation of the program. Then after the trapping efforts, the landowners are reimbursed for a significant portion of the equipment.”

For more information regarding this program, contact your local NRCS office.

As shown by the harvest numbers, hunters obviously remove quite a few hogs annually from the landscape, but hunting has proven to be ineffective at reducing total numbers of hogs.

“The most efficient method at reducing the population in a certain area is to remove entire sounders (family group),” Brock said. “People who are using this remote-activated design trap are seeing effective population control as a result of whole sounder removal. That is the best method available.”

It’s also important when trapping to make sure the entire sounder is inside the enclosure when the trap is triggered.

“Hogs are highly territorial,” Brock said. “Older sows develop home ranges where they forage and take their young. If you can remove a group from one area and start going along the landscape, removing groups as you come to them, you are creating a void that no other hogs are in currently. Some people trap in a shotgun approach, but if you move along the landscape in a strategic fashion, you can do real well in removing sounders entirely. That is what we teach at the workshops.”

Brock said modern technology allows trappers to be much more efficient at removing sounders.

“Monitoring with cameras and live-stream video has completely changed the game,” he said. “I can’t stress enough the importance of monitoring to know what you’ve got. If you’ve got 100 hogs on the landscape and you catch 35 of them, you think you’ve done a really good job. But if you’re not monitoring them with cameras, you wouldn’t know you left 65 out there. Not only that, you also educated them. Cameras, especially with live-streaming, have really changed the game. When hogs come to the feed, they’re constantly moving, with some running others in and out of the trap. It’s a social hierarchy thing. With just still shots, some hogs may be outside the trap when you trigger it. With live-stream, you only have a one- to two-second delay when you drop the trap. You actually get to see what’s going on at the time you drop.”

For those who prefer to leave the hog removal to someone else, WFF has a list of nuisance trappers at www.outdooralabama.com.

For those who just need information on trapping hogs, WFF has a technical assistance biologist in each district who can provide assistance by assessing the hog damage to the property and recommending a trapping program.

Brock said landowners who provide the panels to build an enclosure can purchase a remotely activated gate for about $2,000. For a complete trapping unit, expect an outlay of between $5,000 and $10,000.

Hiring a professional feral swine trapper will run between $25,000 and $40,000 annually. That may seem like a lot, but Brock says you must keep costs in perspective.

“I had a farmer tell me, he estimated the hog damage in 2019 at $140,000,” Brock said. “He looked at what it was going to cost to hire someone to trap. It was $25,000 to $28,000. To him, that was a minor expense compared to that $140,000 loss.”

David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years. The former outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

4 hours ago

Ivey lights official state Christmas tree – ‘Merry Christmas to each of you’

MONTGOMERY – Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Friday took part in the traditional annual lighting of the official State of Alabama Christmas Tree located on the steps of the capitol.

“Let this be a year you do a little bit more, and give a little bit more,” said Governor Ivey to those assembled.

“Merry Christmas to each of you and to all families across Alabama,” she added.

Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed introduced Ivey at the ceremony and praised her “steady leadership” during a tumultuous year. Ivey later thanked him for his “dedicated leadership” of Alabama’s capital city.

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Around 200 citizens braved temperatures in the mid-40s to take in the lighting ceremony. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, masks were required for attendance at the ceremony.

“I’m incredibly grateful we’re able to safely keep this Christmas tradition alive,” Ivey said of the circumstances.

Alabama’s 2020 tree was donated by Robbins Taylor, Sr. of Lowndes County. The Eastern Red Cedar is 35 feet tall and required a crew from the Alabama Department of Transportation for its installation.

Major General David J. Francis, commanding general of the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker, reminded the crowd in attendance that the Christmas standard “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” was written from the perspective of a soldier forced to be away from home during World War II.

“This is a great reminder to remember all our service members, including the members of the greatest generation, the deployed members who will not be with their loved ones this holiday season, and the many who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom,” Francis added.

“Christmas is a direct reminder of the hope we find in Jesus Christ,” mentioned the governor, who makes her Christian faith a mainstay of her public persona.

“Through the birth of a baby boy over two thousand years ago, we can find salvation, peace, and purpose in our lives,” Ivey continued.

“For many of us, including myself, that hope and faith has been what has guided us through these difficult challenges of 2020,” she told the public.

“May God continue to bless our state,” the governor concluded.

Watch:

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

7 hours ago

Palmer: Pelosi, Democrats prioritize pot legalization over COVID-19 relief

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) raised eyebrows this week by calling the House of Representatives into session and pushing through votes on legislation that would legalize marijuana and ban private ownership of exotic animals — known as the “Tiger King” bill.

Congressman Gary Palmer (AL-06) released a scathing statement on Friday decrying Pelosi’s prioritization of these bills over much-needed COVID-19 relief for the American people.

“Speaker Pelosi and her clueless Democrat colleagues have proven over and over again that their top priorities do not include the hardworking Americans who need help to get through this pandemic,” Palmer said.

“This week, their prioritization of pot legalization while people are struggling is a stunning display of partisan politics and shows just how out of touch Democrats are with the American people,” he continued. “The timing of this bill not only reflects a disregard for the businesses that need further relief funding, but also for the rampant mental health and drug overdose issues exacerbated by the pandemic.”

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Entitled the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act), the marijuana legalization passed the House on Friday by a vote of 228-164. The only Alabama representative to support the measure was Congresswoman Terri Sewell (AL-07), a Democrat.

“Federal surveys show that since the coronavirus arrived in the U.S., depression and anxiety have been on the rise, with a concerning 75% of young adults now struggling with at least one mental health or drug problem,” Palmer explained. “The Center for Disease Control has also predicted that the U.S. could see 75,500 drug overdose deaths in 2020 if recent trends hold. Pelosi’s pot bill is even more unconscionable with these concerning facts in mind, especially as it ignores common sense safety measures around marijuana use, and also funnels taxpayer dollars to the marijuana industry and convicted drug dealers. In short, the bill would grant easier access to a gateway drug for already vulnerable and struggling people.”

The Central Alabama congressman concluded, “Furthermore, at a time when we should be helping people with employment opportunities, this bill would move us in the wrong direction. Companies with drug-free work environments, many of them also hazardous work environments, should not and will not employ people who might come to work drug-impaired, endangering themselves and others. I hope we don’t waste more opportunities next week for needed relief.”

Palmer, as the chair of the Republican Policy Committee, is the fifth-highest ranking member of the House GOP.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

7 hours ago

WWII vet finishes fight with COVID-19, turns 104 the next day

A World War II veteran in Alabama was released from the hospital this week after a battle with the coronavirus. He turned 104 years old on his first day back home.

Major Wooten, the veteran in question, has become something of a minor celebrity in recent years for his joyful approach to life at his advanced age.

Wooten turned heads in recent years during his trip to Normandy to celebrate the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Similar lines cheered his return to the airport and his exit from the hospital earlier this week.

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An ardent Alabama fan, Wooten again made headlines earlier this year when Nick Saban gave him a call after a health scare in the spring.

RELATED: Nick Saban surprises 103-year-old WWII veteran with Facetime call

Wooten is from Cullman and was cared for at Madison Hospital during his fight with COVID-19.

His exit from the hospital has garnered attention across the nation, with the Associated Press publishing a widely circulated story and ABC’s World News Tonight featuring Wooten in a segment.

Watch employees of Madison Hospital sing Happy Birthday to Major Wooten:

 

Major Wooten turns 104!

Mr. Major Lee Wooten won his battle with COVID-19 in time to be home to celebrate his 104th birthday. Mr. Wooten, who is a veteran and warmly known as “Pop Pop,” is described by his granddaughter as “their family’s treasure.” Please join us in wishing Mr. Wooten a very, happy birthday!

Posted by Madison Hospital on Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

8 hours ago

Alabama receives over $50M from Dept. of Interior for energy produced in state

The State of Alabama is receiving $50.29 million from the federal government as a disbursement for energy that was produced in a federally owned area of the state.

Alabama’s funds come as part of a $1.81 billion payout to 34 states announced by U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt on Friday.

The revenue sent to states Friday “was collected from oil, gas and mineral production on federal lands within the states’ borders and from offshore oil and gas tracts in federal waters adjacent to their shores,” according to a release from the department.

Virtually all of Alabama’s portion of the money was generated by offshore drilling, per the data available on an Interior Department web portal.

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Alabama’s payment was ninth highest in the nation. New Mexico took the top spot with $706.96 million followed by Wyoming, Louisiana, Texas, North Dakota, Colorado, Utah and Mississippi.

American Indian Tribes received $1 billion as part of the process; 100% of the revenue from the energy generated on their lands.

“[T]hese disbursements also go right back to the states and Tribes where the energy was produced, providing critical funding for schools, public services, conservation improvements and infrastructure projects that create good-paying American jobs,” said Bernhardt on Friday.

The over $50 million announced as on its way to Alabama on Friday is the state’s total for fiscal year 2020 that ended September 30. It is the largest amount the state has received under the disbursement policy in the last decade.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

10 hours ago

Aderholt tests positive for COVID-19, is asymptomatic

Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-04) on Friday announced that he has tested positive for COVID-19 but is displaying no symptoms.

Aderholt originally went into quarantine on November 15 after learning he had been in close contact with someone who subsequently tested positive for COVID-19. Right after completing his 10-day quarantine period, Aderholt’s wife, Caroline, tested positive and he once again went into quarantine.

Under new CDC guidelines that allow for a seven-day quarantine if followed by a negative test result, Aderholt on Thursday received a COVID-19 test to ascertain if he could exit quarantine and resume voting on the House floor.

“I fully expected to receive a negative test, because I have felt, and continue to feel fine, and have no symptoms. Unfortunately, I received word Friday morning that my test came back positive. After speaking with the Attending Physician for Congress, I will continue to isolate,” he advised in a statement.

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Aderholt also said that his wife has recovered from the virus after experiencing mild symptoms.

During his original quarantine, Aderholt had isolated himself away from his wife and the rest of his family.

The dean of Alabama’s U.S. House delegation, Aderholt is a senior member of the Committee on Appropriations, including serving as the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science and as a member of the Agriculture and Rural Development Subcommittee and the Defense Subcommittee.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn