Running Wild: Feral Hog Problem Growing In Oklahoma
INOLA, Oklahoma - Oklahoma's wild hog population is a million strong, and booming.
So many hogs are running loose that they are costing our state a billion and a half dollars a year in agriculture and livestock losses.
Now, landowners are fighting back, on the ground and from the air.
They're violent, they're often diseased and they can now be found in every one of Oklahoma's 77 counties, according to George Luker, with Langston University.
“They're very opportunistic. They are very aggressive and very smart," he said.
Parts of Charlie Coblentz's 6,000-acre farm near Inola were destroyed as corn seedlings were ripped from the ground just a month after planting.
“The hog will root and dig up the corn seed and eat the seed at the bottom of the plant,” he said.
The Coblentz family has worked the farm for decades and said the wild hog problem is just about out of control.
“I don't feel like there is a real good solution to fix the problem,” Charlie Coblentz said.
Tracking and hunting the elusive hogs from high above is one partial answer.
Helicopter hunts put on by companies like Tulsa County Helicopters are growing in popularity with sport hunters looking for a new thrill and landowners looking to get rid of the costly nuisance.
“Anybody that is doing anything to alleviate them I'm all for it,” Coblentz said.
It's not just combating the problem from the air. For some ranchers and landowners, a more common way is to build a fence to trap the pigs on their land.
"People who think these are just pigs don't realize how violent they are," said wild hog trapper, Jack Muhlhauser.
Muhlhauser built a pen on Coblentz's farm where they've trapped up to 15 hogs at once.
Agricultural expert Ron Hayes, with the Radio Oklahoma Network, said, estimates put the state's wild hog population as high as a million, and they multiply quickly.
"Oklahoma is one of three states that's got a real feral hog, or wild hog, population problem. Oklahoma, Texas and then California has quite a few as well," he said. “A sow can have a litter of pigs, several pigs at a time, where other animals will have, maybe one or two babies a year, hogs will have a dozen or more a year."
That's partly why Oklahoma's population is growing exponentially; just another reason the hogs are popular with hunters here and are routinely smuggled into Oklahoma.
Back in March, state troopers and agricultural agents pulled over trailers and arrested several people for illegally transporting 120 hogs from Texas into Oklahoma.
Landowners are just now formulating a coordinated statewide plan to get rid of the hogs.
"Population is very mobile and you'll push those hogs into places they haven't been before out of necessity,” Luker said. “And they'll breed there and overbreed and come back to spot that's been cleared.”
Landowner Brad Phillips said, “The long-term solution is everybody has to do something. We have got to do something. We have got to go after the feral swine problem in Oklahoma with everything we got.”
"It is very frustrating to see your work destroyed by a wild animal,” said Coblentz, “or anything destroy your work whether it be Mother Nature or animals."
The state agricultural department said wild hogs can carry or transmit more than 30 diseases.
Of the 120 hogs smuggled in from Texas, half tested positive for pseudorabies. That's a virus passed along by hogs and it's usually deadly for dogs, cats, cattle, sheep and goats.
Several of the confiscated hogs also tested positive for brucellosis, a disease that affects people and livestock.