USDA tries new approach in 'removing' feral swine in Alabama

This is what the soil looks like after wild hogs damage it. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
This is what the soil looks like after wild hogs damage it. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Updated: Feb. 26, 2018 at 5:10 PM CST
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AUTAUGA COUNTY, AL (WSFA) - The United States Department of Agriculture is trying a new approach to handling the feral swine problem in Autauga County: hunting them from the air.

About three weeks ago, WSFA 12 News reported an Autauga County man and his neighbors were having trouble with feral swine. Feral swine can be found throughout the southeast and Alabama is no exception. Gray Rock Ranch in Autauga County is a spread covering nearly 5,700 acres and wild hogs call the ranch home.

The damage the pigs can do is enormous.

"There are too many people out there who don't realize what these pigs can do. They are rooting, disrupting the worms and grubs that help the soil," said Lynn Blake who co-manages the 5,700 acre ranch.

Pilot Brad Dean and gunner Leif Stephens from USDA spent two days last week hunting the hogs. In all, 75 were removed. The goal is not to eradicate them but to dramatically reduce the population. This approach from the air is new in Alabama.

"It's only one tool in the toolbox. In order to control feral swine, you have to have an integral approach such as trapping and shooting," said Stephens.

The USDA team says ground crews are also part of team. The dead hogs are given to local outlets for their meat and tested for diseases.

True success won't be known for a few weeks. Landowners will determine if there's been a reduction in the amount of damage done to the soil or crops. For Lynn Blake, it's all about getting ahead of the game.

"A sow can deliver litters twice a year, up to 10 per litter," said Blake.

Stephens says before any aerial hunt can take place, the USDA gets written permission from landowners and there is no charge to the landowners to remove some of feral swine population.

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