The days of hunting feral swine and other wild hogs in Kansas are probably numbered.
A bill in the Kansas Legislature that would ban wild hog hunting has passed House and Senate committees. It also makes it illegal to intentionally release swine into the wild for purposes of hunting.
"What we don't want are people bringing feral swine into the state for the sport," said Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, who sits on the Senate Agricultural Committee, which approved the bill Tuesday.
Kansas Livestock Commissioner George Teagarden pushed for the bill and testified before Francisco's committee earlier this month, only a few days after federal agents used a helicopter as a platform for hunting and shooting to death 25 feral swine in the Clinton Lake Wildlife Area west of Lawrence. The carcasses were buried in an approved site in Osage County.
The pigs had been in the area for the last few years and their population had increased, according to the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. Theories are that the pigs were introduced to the area for hunting or they somehow escaped from an owner.
Teagarden thinks they were intentionally released and that hunting the animals has contributed to their increase.
"We didn't have ferals in there 10 years ago," he said in a phone interview. "Our experience has been that over the past 10 years the hunting pressure has scattered the groups of hogs that we've had, plus it's encouraged, we believe, illegal importation of feral swine."
The pigs scatter from public hunting grounds onto nearby private properties where they cause problems by rooting up farm crops and ground, Teagarden and game agents said. They can carry diseases that could be passed on to farm animals and pets.
Property owners near the Clinton wildlife area had complained about the pigs, state agents said.
In addition to Clinton, the helicopter team from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal, Health and Inspection Service killed wild hogs in other parts of the state where they had been causing problems.
Feral swine are considered livestock, not true wild animals, so they are under jurisdiction of the livestock commissioner. State game agents, however, say the swine revert to their primal instincts once they're introduced into the wild.
Wildlife and Parks supports the bill, a spokeswoman said.
If it becomes law, anyone caught hunting feral swine or releasing them into the wild could be fined a maximum $5,000 per violation. It also would make it illegal to assist or profit from any feral swine hunting activity.
Property owners could take action to kill wild hogs on their own or through a designated agent to protect their property, Francisco said. A designee would have to obtain a state permit for that purpose, she said.