By Austin Jackson
Cross Bar Ranch in Davis welcomes Jeeps, ATVs, dirt bikes and other machines built to rut around on the muddy trails surrounding the Arbuckle Mountains. Unfortunately, the 6,500 acre ranch has also attracted some other mud-loving guests — feral hogs.
Justin Ramsey, partner at MidGround Creators which manages Cross Bar Ranch, said the feral swine have invaded his campgrounds and are becoming a nuisance not just for him, but those in the surrounding areas.
“We have a huge, huge hog population and they have a tendency to come up to camp at night and get in to our yards and campgrounds,” Ramsey said. “In just one night they can wreak all kinds of havoc.”
While MidGround has only been managing the ranch for a year, he said the hogs have caused constant maintenance issues.
Ramsey couldn’t estimate a dollar amount of the damages, but said he and his staff have spent countless man hours cleaning up after the hogs.
“We have to go back and clear out and rebuild areas where they’ll come through and root,” Ramsey said. “The grounds have to be cleaned up and graded to get mobile again. They definitely cause issues on an ongoing basis.”
On Monday, the management group applied for a night shooting exemption to help stave off the feral swine problem. Since feral hogs are nocturnal, the best chance at tracking down and hunting the invasive species is at night.
In addition to the permit, Ramsey said he plans on implementing traps.
“Hogs have no natural predators,” Ramsey said. “There’s only one way to control them and that’s to track them down and kill them.”
Feral swine are not just a problem for Cross Bar Ranch.
The USDA estimates feral swine cause $1.5 billion in damages nationwide from depleting crops, infecting water with diseases and eroding land around water.
According to the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, feral swine populations have been identified in all 77 counties of Oklahoma and are currently present throughout the majority of the state.
Carter County OSU extension agriculture instructor Leland McDaniel said the cost to production agriculture in Oklahoma is in the millions of dollars annually. He said in addition to the destroyed crops and land, there’s also a concern with feral swine transmitting diseases to domestic swine and cattle.
McDaniel said considering the feral swine population in the area and their rates of reproduction, the most effective legal solutions, which include traps, night hunting, and hunting the hogs from a helicopter, will never truly eliminate the problem.
McDaniel said the only way to effectively manage the issue is the warfarin-based toxicant that was approved by the Environmental Protection Agency as a hog poison.
“If you’re a landowner and they are causing significant economic loss to you, you should have the right to employ whatever legal means necessary,” McDaniel said. “You can’t hunt them out, they’ve been here long enough, you can’t destroy a whole sounder (group of pigs) by shooting them. You can’t trap them out. I know people have been trapping hogs continuously on their ranch for two years and they’re still there. The traditional means reduce numbers but you can’t eliminate them.”
Earlier this year, Louisiana and Texas became the only states to approve wild hog poison to help eradicate the issue. However, after hearing the concerns of Department of Wildlife and Fisheries biologists who were concerned about impacts to non-target species, the method of eradication was denied.
McDaniel said with current technology there should be ways to administer the toxicant to limit the effect on non-target species.
For the sake of farmers and landowners, McDaniel hopes it won’t take a more serious problem with livestock before effective measures are reconsidered.
“Luckily there hasn’t been a catastrophic event yet, but I hope we don’t have to have a catastrophic event before we decide to do something about it,” McDaniel said.