Wildlife refuge reopened after feral pig hunt
Federal authorities are making a dent in the Havasu region’s population of feral pigs, according to a report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Fish and Wildlife Service worked with USDA officials in 2016 to draft the Feral Swine Eradication Plan for Havasu National Wildlife Refuge, which required the use of aerial snipers to target and eliminate the invasive species. Since operations began in February 2017, the agencies’ efforts have eliminated 182 feral swine. The fourth of those operations took place this Tuesday through Thursday, and yielded 15 confirmed kills, according to USFWS officials.
In their first outing, USDA officials killed almost 70 feral pigs at an estimated cost of $25,000. Since then, each round of extermination efforts at the refuge has resulted in a lower number of kills. According to Refuge Manager Richard Meyers, it’s a sign that the agencies’ efforts are making a dent in the refuge’s pig population.
“The steady downward trend of pigs sighted and removed during each operational cycle is expected and gets us closer to our ultimate goal of eradication,” Meyers said.
Those operations resulted in a large portion of Havasu National Wildlife Refuge being closed this week. Although that closure was expected to last all week, the refuge was reopened early when culling efforts were concluded.
According to a report from USDA Extension Specialist Jeanine Neskey, feral swine represent a hazard to threatened, endangered and native wildlife species at the refuge. They are an invasive species responsible for the destruction of vegetation and natural habitats of creatures native to the refuge. According to Neskey, the USDA’s highest concern is what effect feral swine may have on marsh birds, including the endangered Ridgeway rail. They are also responsible for property damage to human fence structures and agriculture, Neskey said. They can easily transmit diseases such as salmonella, E. coli and leptospirosis to humans and other animals.
According to the USDA, feral swine are responsible for $1.5 billion in agricultural damage each year. The threat posed by feral swine to humans, property and native animal species was considered to be so severe in 2014 that Congress created a $20 million fund to fuel eradication efforts.
Fish and Wildlife rangers and USDA officials will continue to monitor for feral swine throughout the refuge with trail cameras, and by looking for clues such as scat, tracks, rooting and habitat damage caused by the animals. According to USFWS representatives, the agencies will continue with follow-up efforts to completely remove feral swine from the refuge.