Don’t let Illinois become hog heaven
The State Journal-Register
In the outdoors world, the possibilities are endless. The probabilities are something else.
When you go fishing, the probability that you will catch a fish — any fish — is pretty good. The odds that you will land a 10-pound lunker, especially in this neck of the woods, are remote.
As long as you keep hunting, there is always the possibility the next world-record buck will end up over your fireplace. The probability that you will ever see that deer in a fair-chase hunting situation is more than 10 million to one.
Still, the possibility of beating the odds is one thing that sends us out in bad weather, or on the morning after the night before when hitting the snooze button is real easy. To realize the possibilities, we need to be out there where the possibilities are.
There is one rapidly approaching possibility that I would just as soon avoid. The probability that we will see feral pigs in the Illinois country where we hunt is increasing every year. Sightings have already been reported in southern Illinois and in Fulton County. The latter is just a short step away from here.
Across the country, wildlife experts say the probability of eliminating the rapidly expanding feral pig population is only about 20 percent. Feral hogs begin reproducing when they are six months old and can have two litters a year. This species has few if any natural enemies, will eat just about anything and wreaks havoc on habitat and other game species.
Economic losses resulting from the destruction caused by feral pigs are estimated at more than $1 billion a year. If that’s not bad enough, feral pigs carry a smorgasbord of diseases that can affect people, wildlife, pets and livestock.
Some states give hunters incentives to shoot them on sight. Other states take the opposite approach and don’t allow them to be hunted at all, believing their wildlife professionals are best suited to eradication efforts. They reason, and possibly correctly so, that if hunting pigs becomes legal, irresponsible hunters will release more of them into the wild to increase hunting opportunities.
That idea has some basis in fact. The feral hog is not a native species. The reason they have become so prolific is because they were released by misguided hunters or escaped into the wild from shooting preserves.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources encourages all Illinois hunters to report the sighting of feral hogs at 785-2511.
Illinois hunters who are in the field with a valid hunting license and FOID card can shoot feral pigs wherever and whenever they see them. As in all cases, those hunting on private land must have the landowner’s permission.
The probability that the idea to release hogs into the wild was worse than terrible is 100 percent. Those illegal and misguided actions have created a mess so big that it may be impossible to clean up.