Shaun M. Tanger, Michael Kaller and Richard Vlosky
Louisiana landowners, like those in other states, tend to have negative attitudes toward feral hogs. If the hogs have caused economic losses, these negative attitudes worsen. LSU AgCenter researchers conducted a study to determine the connection between agriculture producer experiences with feral hogs and their concerns and opinions about the animals. The findings of this study can be used to develop educational programs about feral hog management and influence public policy decisions.
During 2014 and 2015, a questionnaire was mailed to more than 4,000 Louisiana agricultural producers with a response rate of 1,223 people, or about 30 percent. Study respondents were older than the national 2012 average, with 60 percent 65 years old or older and 5 percent under 45 years old. Respondents were mostly Caucasian (95 percent) and male (79 percent). Household income was fairly well distributed across income categories, with 61 percent reporting an income greater than the Louisiana state median household income of $58,964. Respondents were well-educated, with 24 percent having an undergraduate college degree and 13 percent having an advanced college degree, which is higher than the Louisiana statewide average. Farming or ranching was a primary occupation of 22 percent of respondents and a secondary occupation for the remainder. Forty-three percent had been farming for 40 years or more.
Nearly a third of the respondents said feral hogs were present on their land and 23 percent said feral hogs had previously been present on their land. More than a third reported feral hogs had caused some type of property damage, and 18 percent reported damage had increased over the past three years. Seventeen percent said the population increased over this time period, while nearly half said the number remained stable. Respondents perceived that the main reason for the increase in feral hog populations was that they have multiple litters annually followed by lack of hunting pressure and illegal release or transfer.
A series of questions addressed economic, health and safety, environmental and management concerns. Of the respondents who said feral hogs were present on their land, 55 percent agreed they would interfere with their farming operations and 50 percent agreed that addressing the problem would take time away from farm activities. In addition, half said they experienced crop damage because of the hogs in the past year.
Concerning health and safety, 43 percent of respondents agreed that feral hogs made them concerned for their own or their family’s safety, while 34 percent also felt concern for their pets’ safety. And 5 percent said they or a family member had actually been injured by feral hogs. In addition, 52 percent believed feral hogs transmit diseases to humans, and 56 percent believed that feral hogs transmit diseases to wildlife and farm animals.
When asked their perceptions regarding environmental impacts from feral hogs, 73 percent of respondents agreed that feral hogs damage wildlife habitat, 55 percent felt this was the case for soil quality, and 59 percent felt this was the case for water quality. Thirty-one percent agreed odor and air quality was an issue.
Regarding feral hog management, 78 percent of respondents believed that state eradication programs should be a priority. Fifty-seven percent agreed that feral hogs should be managed for hunting opportunities, and 27 percent agreed they should be managed for human consumption. When asked if feral hogs are being properly managed, only 13 percent felt this was the case for state officials and 11 percent felt this was the case for federal wildlife officials.
Despite the low frequency of reported feral hog presence or damage, respondents exhibited generally negative perceptions and experiences regarding feral hogs. This result supports recent findings in other studies that suggest attitudes toward feral hogs, at least among agricultural producers, are far more negative than in other stakeholder groups, regardless of prior interaction with feral hogs. These producers reflect a stakeholder group not frequently considered in nuisance wildlife policy decisions, yet it is a group that experiences substantial social and environmental harm. This research can be used to help LSU AgCenter educators develop programs for specific producer groups to convey information on feral hog biology, trapping, management and hunting. Policy makers can use these results to create effective programs and improve governmental response to the feral hog problem.
Shaun M. Tanger is an assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness; Michael D. Kaller is an associate professor in the School of Renewable Natural Resources and Department of Experimental Statistics; and Richard P. Vlosky is director of the Louisiana Forest Products Development Center in the School of Renewable Natural Resources.
This work is partially supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Renewable Resources Extension Act project 1011417.
(This article appears in the winter 2019 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)
Research is conducted on feral hog management and control at the LSU AgCenter Bob R. Jones-Idlewild Research Station in Clinton, Louisiana. Photo by Olivia McClure