JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Gov. Mike Parson signed HB 369 on Tuesday to tackle the ongoing feral hog issue in Missouri. The bill also reclassified feral hogs as “feral swine”. Feral swine are the same species as those found on most hog farms as they descend from pigs that escaped or were released.
The bill will require any person who intentionally releases feral swine into the wild to pay up to $2,000 in fines. It will also make the transportation of feral swine a class E felony after the second offense and the killing of swine on private property without the owner’s consent will become a misdemeanor.
The majority of these swine reside in southern Missouri, where they affect rural farms and businesses by damaging the land and releasing gasses trapped in the soil – so it’s no surprise the bill was fully endorsed by the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association.
In addition to their impact on farmland and the environment, feral swine can also be harmful to humans. These swine often carry threatening diseases such as leprosy, salmonella and E. coli. Feral swine can also be aggressive towards humans and can cause accidents on the road.
“Feral hogs are a menace to farmers throughout southern Missouri,” said Missouri Farm Bureau President Garrett Hawkins. “Across the U.S., feral hogs cause as much as $1.5 billion in damage each year. In southern Missouri, feral hogs root up crops and damage pastures to the point some lands can no longer be farmed.”
Feral swine reproduce rapidly as one sow can give birth to about 12 piglets annually. Since the late 1990’s, feral swine have established populations in over 30 Missouri counties. The Missouri Department of Conservation has long discouraged the hunting of feral swine because killing individual pigs can cause the rest of the group to scatter and become increasingly difficult to round up. Instead, they encourage those encountering feral swine to report them so they can be caught in large numbers.
Research by the University of Queensland Australia estimates that feral swine are releasing approximately 4.9 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide around the world annually. This would be the equivalent of approximately 1.1 million cars.
In January, the USDA invested $11.65 million into a plan to reduce the impact of feral swine known as the Feral Swine Eradication and Control Pilot Program. With this investment, the program was able to extend its reach to Missouri.
This is not the first piece of legislation that has aimed to reduce the impact of feral swine in Missouri. In February, lawmakers proposed a plan in which meat from hunted feral swine would be used to provide food for low-income households.
This plan would have been used to supplement an existing program called Share the Harvest in which deer hunters donate meat to charity. The legislation was rejected though as conservation officials deemed the meat not safe for mass distribution.
The bill will aim to restrict the growth of the state’s feral pig population, minimize their impact on Missouri’s farmland and set the groundwork for solutions across the country.