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Wild hogs tough to control on Bayou Cocodrie refuge

FERRIDAY — Hogs are running wild at Bayou Cocodrie National Wildlife Refuge, and game officials there are trying to keep them in check.

That’s a tall task, though, since hogs are sexually mature at just 6 to 7 months old, and produce two litters a year on average.

St. Catherine Creek summer intern John Barker, who has been working at Bayou Cocodrie for his internship, said the refuge has three hog traps set up. However, he also said the traps only go so far in helping to keep the population growth of the animals at bay.

“The most important issue is that they’re not native, and they’re very difficult — some say impossible — to exterminate and control,” Barker said.

“They were brought over here by European settlers, and many pigs were released on the open range. Nowadays, we even have people that release them so that they can hunt them.”

In addition to raiding crops, Barker said the wild hogs on the refuge also make life difficult for native animals.

“If they’re in the woods looking for food, they’re competing against white-tailed deer and turkeys,” he said.

Andy Taunton, another summer intern working at Bayou Cocodrie, said the hogs are especially active after it rains.

“My guess is they move because it’s cooler out and the ground is softer,” Taunton said.

And where there’s mud on the refuge, there’s likely a small collection of hogs playing around in it.

“They’re out looking for food and cooling off in the mud,” Barker said as he observed a puddle of mud in which wild hogs had made themselves at home.

“One of the concerns we have is with our waterfowl impoundments. We’re concerned about them damaging they levees. When you see what they did here, you get an idea of what they can do to the levees.”

Trapping the animals and hunting them during regular gun and bow seasons are the most effective way of combating the ever-growing populations of wild hogs on the refuge. The three traps used by refuge officials are caged ones with gates that are propped open by sticks, with food at the base of the sticks.

“These are the best kinds of traps, because you can catch more than one. Even after the stick’s been hit and the gate closes, more pigs can push the door open, trying to get to the one inside,” Barker said.

“When we catch them, we dispatch them and let nature run its course.”

When it comes to dead hogs on the refuge, Taunton said they’ve attempted to track what kinds of animals eat their remains.

“There are plenty of animals waiting for such a meal — coyotes, bears and vultures. We’ve actually put cameras on top of them to find out what’s eating them, but we’ve only seen vultures so far,” Taunton said.

During regular hunting seasons, Barker said hunters are more than welcome to hunt the wild hogs on the refuge. They would just have to make sure they’re using whichever firearm is legal at the time they’re hunting.

“We do encourage hunting, and we’d like hunters to take as many as they can,” Barker said.

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