A measure to help eradicate feral hogs, one of Oklahoma's greatest agricultural nuisances, has been signed into law. Senate Bill 1751, authored by Sen. Josh Brecheen and Rep. Don Armes, would authorize citizens to use an electronic tracking device while employing the services of a "Judas pig" to help locate and capture or kill entire herds of feral swine.
"Feral hogs cost Oklahoma farmers and ranchers millions of dollars each year. They root up hay fields, crops and fences, plunder creep feeders and silos and spread diseases among livestock," said Brecheen, R-Coalgate. "Farmers, ranchers, hunters and trappers should be allowed to use any legal means possible to combat the problem and this bill provides one more option. Electronic tracking systems can pinpoint the location of feral hog herds often hidden among dense forests and thick brush and will lead to effective hunts and better positioning of live traps."
The Judas pig tagging system is a population control technique where a radio-collared feral swine, the "Judas pig", is released into an area for the purpose of being tracked until it joins other feral swine. Through use of the monitoring devices, the Judas pig will reveal the herd's position or pattern so they can all be removed.
Brecheen noted that under current Oklahoma law feral swine cannot be released once captured so passage of SB1751 was necessary to allow for an exception to the law for those using the Judas pig tagging system.
Under SB 1751, the electronically-monitored feral hog must be released on the same property from which it was caught and within 24 hours of its capture. The collared swine will be allowed to return to an active state after capture thereby not changing any dynamic other than being collared. A change of the animal's physical location (e.g. release of feral swine onto someone else's property) will remain unlawful. SB 1751 also ensures that an installed electronic monitoring device will not indicate ownership of the feral hog thus protecting the owner of the collar/tracking device from liability of the animal’s actions.
"This is an evasive animal that has the ability to reproduce very rapidly. Pigs have a short gestation period of three months, three weeks and three days and they are litter bearing animals so the problem has compounded quickly,” said Armes, R-Faxon. “We need to provide our agriculture community with tools such as the Judas pig tagging system to help them protect their property from these destructive animals."
According to Wildlife Services, there are approximately five million feral hogs across the country. Historically, there are no accurate accounts of the feral hog population in Oklahoma due to their secretive nature. The most recent account of feral hog numbers and distribution in Oklahoma was conducted in the summer of 2007 by the Noble Foundation wildlife and fisheries staff. The foundation found that feral hogs were present in all but three Oklahoma counties. Authorities believe feral hogs are now in all 77 Oklahoma counties. Based on the various state agency survey responses in 2007, it was estimated that the feral hog population at the time was between 617,000 and 1.4 million.
The new law will go into effect November 1, 2012.