Invasive feral hogs have for years threatened native wildlife in the area of Lake Havasu National Wildlife Refuge. But this year, federal officials could allow local hunters to help.
According to Lake Havasu National Wildlife Refuge Manager Richard Meyers, wildlife refuges throughout the U.S. were as of this week in the process of updating hunting and fishing programs. A public notice is expected to be released this spring to inform Arizonans of possible changes to hunting allowed at refuges such as Lake Havasu and Bill Williams.
Meyers says that Arizona Game & Fish Department officials have requested the opening of several new species for hunting, including feral swine.
Feral swine have long posed a jurisdictional challenge for Arizona agencies – By definition, feral swine are either hogs escaped or released from human captivity, or the descendants of hogs that have escaped captivity.
According to Game and Fish officials, feral swine aren’t classified as wildlife. But according to the Arizona Department of Agriculture, feral swine don’t qualify as “domesticated,” either.
Authority over feral swine remains the purview of the USDA, and federal approval could grant hunters the right to hunt hogs for the first time at the Lake Havasu and Bill Williams National Wildlife Refuges.
In a 2020 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, federal officials said feral swine populations throughout the country posed a threat not only to natural wildlife but endangered species, either through predation or destruction of native wildlife habitat. The USDA reported there are an estimated six million feral swine distributed across 31 states, and their presence is directly linked to the decline of 300 native plants and animals nationwide – including endangered and threatened populations.
According to Arizona Game & Fish Wildlife Supervisor Dee Pfleiger, a decision allowing the hunting of feral swine could go far in protecting Arizona’s natural wildlife from the invasive species.
“The Fish & Wildlife Service has always refused allowing hunting,” Pfleiger said. “They didn’t want to open feral hogs to hunting for public health and safety reasons. Two years ago, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior asked them to work with state agencies to provide opportunities for hunting, and now they’re trying to align state and federal regulations to do so. We want to create an opportunity for hunters to remove them from Arizona’s native landscape.”
As the Fish & Wildlife service prepares to issue a preliminary draft of new federal hunting regulations at the Havasu and Bill Williams wildlife refuges, feral swine may be in the crosshairs – but that may not mean that they’re on the menu.
According to past statements by U.S. Fish & Wildlife officials, feral swine are known carriers of salmonella, brucellosis and other infectious diseases that can easily be passed to humans through consumption.
If the new federal policies are approved for the hunting of feral swine this year, Meyers says that hunting could begin as soon as September.