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Hunting Not Best Choice for Iowa Pig Problem
By Lowell Washburn, Iowa DNR

Carl Priebe used to spend his days overseeing the 20 Wildlife Management Areas in southwest Iowa. That meant making sure the waterfowl, upland game and forest animals had the food and shelter they needed on the roughly 10,000 acres those areas spanned. It meant working with private landowners who wanted the same for the animals on their own property. It meant maintaining the numerous public use facilities so frequently used by hunters and anglers alike.

Now the Iowa DNR wildlife management biologist spends his time studying, tracking, monitoring and trying to eradicate an animal few ever thought would pose a problem in Iowa – wild Russian hogs.

"We spent most of March doing nothing but pigs…," Priebe said, referring to himself and his staff of three, "building traps, checking traps, baiting sites and looking for new bait sites."

And answering phone calls. Lots of them. Since wild pigs are not protected in Iowa, many of the calls came from hunters looking for an opportunity to pursue an animal that previously was only an option on pay-to-hunt game farms. And that is causing some consternation to the staff whose goal is to eradicate an animal that is already wreaking havoc on one wildlife area, and is poised to do the same on others if left unchecked.

"In other states, hunting has not proven to be successful in stemming population growth," Priebe said. "That's why we're resorting to trapping."

In fact, hunting may even be counterproductive.

"If 10 pigs walk out into a field and a hunter shoots one, he's killed one pig but educated nine," he said. "And it appears that hunting pressure tends to turn them nocturnal, and they will move readily if pressured."

Even more disconcerting for Priebe is the safety issue. He's concerned turkey hunters will see the pigs as an opportunity to add to their game bag and will be woefully under-matched in the field, given the fact turkey hunters can't have anything larger than No. 2 nontoxic or No. 4 lead shot in their possession when hunting. He's also concerned that a turkey hunter dressed in full dark camouflage could be mistaken for a Russian hog, which is typically solid black in color.

"I am a little nervous with turkey season, having turkey hunters (and mushroom hunters) out there mixing with someone who has a high-power (rifle) shooting pigs," Priebe said. "We'd prefer to handle the situation through trapping, but if nothing else, we'd at least like to see the pig hunters hold off until after the turkey and mushroom seasons."

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