Nearly a year after gunmen in helicopters shot and killed dozens of feral swine in Douglas County and other areas of the state, the animals are still causing headaches for rural landowners.
Herds of wild hogs have been confirmed in 25 counties, and they have been seen in 10 more counties, Kansas Livestock Commissioner George Teagarden said. A survey taken by a wildlife biologist last fall estimated that herd sizes ranged from fewer than 100 hogs to as many as 2,000 in one area, he said.
"We confirmed that we had a bigger problem than we realized," Teagarden said.
Last year, the state launched a control and eradication program aimed at wild hogs. The services of a wildlife biologist were obtained in an agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to establish a program to deal with the wild hog problem and work with landowners.
A USDA helicopter and gunmen will be used again this spring, Teagarden said. Landowners must give permission for the helicopter to be used for hunting on their land.
The Kansas Legislature approved a $125,000 appropriation for the program last year.
"We have limited money so we have to prioritize our hunts to where there is the most damage and the most risk to commercial swine operations," Teagarden said. "We hope we can expand our efforts because the population is growing pretty rapidly."
Chad Richardson, the USDA wildlife biologist, said a helicopter hunt likely would be conducted again in Douglas County in the Clinton Lake area, the same area where about 25 wild hogs were shot and killed last March. He estimates there are probably about 100 hogs in that area.
"There's definitely still hogs around there," Richardson said.
Sportsmen used to hunt hogs on state hunting land at the lake, but that has been stopped by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. The hunting was driving the hogs off public land and onto private properties, state game agents have said.
In fact, the state banned wild hog hunting last year. Landowners having problems with wild hogs can shoot and kill them. They also can designate others to kill them, but a special free permit must be obtained from Teagarden's office.
The main reason Kansas has a problem with wild hogs is because domestic hogs have been released by people who favor hog hunting. The domestic hogs quickly become wild and rapidly produce offspring that are born in the wild.
The wild hogs cause problems for landowners because they carry disease that can spread to other animals and cause damage to land and crops.