Wildlife Commission Updated on Feral Swine Pilot Project
During a regular meeting March 6, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission received an update on federal and state efforts to control feral swine across the state.
Scott Alls, Oklahoma state director of Wildlife Services for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), told Commissioners that any thought of eradicating feral swine in Oklahoma is probably unrealistic.
A pilot project to remove feral swine using Farm Bill funding started in 2019 in Greer, Harmon, Jackson, Tillman, and Kay counties. Osage, Pawnee, Roger Mills, and Beckham counties have been added to the project area. Alls said APHIS uses five helicopters in aerial shooting and has about 100 remotely activated traps being used on about 1.2 million acres under agreement.
To facilitate the pilot project’s research, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation closed hog shooting year-round on Hackberry Flat, Kaw, Sandy Sanders and Waurika wildlife management areas.
Since 2019, the project has removed about 11,000 feral swine, averting an estimated $4.3 million in agricultural damage. Alls said the prime obstacle in swine removal has been many landowners refusing to participate, as they are using feral hogs to sell hunting leases.
Alls said this pilot project along with other statewide efforts to remove feral swine produce much greater benefits than what could be gained from hunting.
Also, Commissioners recognized ODWC employees Kristen Gillman and Sarah Southerland as they were presented awards from Inger Guiffrida of The Wildlife Society’s Oklahoma Chapter. Gillman, lands and minerals coordinator, received the Oklahoma Award, the organization’s highest honor for her two decades of work in wildlife conservation. Southerland, social media coordinator, received the Publication and Creativity Award for her efforts to promote awareness and appreciation for native fish.
In other business:
- In his regular report, Wildlife Department Director J.D. Strong provided updates from ODWC’s various divisions since the previous meeting. He said Wildlife Division is currently engaged in prescribed burning of areas statewide to improve habitat, and Law Enforcement Division has launched its annual Game Warden Training Academy with 10 recruits, believed to be the largest recruit class in ODWC’s history.
- Legislative Liaison Catherine Appling-Pooler reported that 22 bills potentially affecting wildlife conservation were still active in the state Legislature, including the Department’s request bill to consolidate many of its licenses and fees to simplify participation in hunting and fishing.
- Commissioners recognized Communications Manager Jimmy Foster for 35 years of service.
- Commissioners authorized the Director to pursue the acquisition of properties in Beckham County.
The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission is the eight-member governing board of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The Commission establishes state hunting and fishing regulations, sets policy for the Wildlife Department and indirectly oversees all state fish and wildlife conservation activities. Commission members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Oklahoma Senate.
The next scheduled Commission meeting is set for April 3, 2023.
To view a video recording of the March. 6 meeting, go to the Outdoor Oklahoma YouTube Channel at https://www.youtube.com/live/apVY0zyIDPs?feature=share.