CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency representatives will meet Tuesday with local officials about requested changes to the state's current wild hog hunting regulations.
At least five East Tennessee counties -- Polk, Monroe, White, McMinn and Bradley -- recently passed resolutions that asked the state to reinstate a "dedicated season" for hunting feral hogs in wildlife management areas and to give private property owners the right to determine whether to use dogs for hunting the animals on their own property.
Even if state and local officials don't agree on how best to control feral hog populations, they all acknowledge the creatures are responsible for extensive damage to agriculture and the environment and that they are widespread in Tennessee.
"[Wild] hogs cause $1.5 billion in damage each year to agriculture and the environment in the United States -- and that's a very conservative estimate," stated a Mississippi State University feral hog study that was cited in a number of the county resolutions.
"In order to remove the incentive to relocate wild hogs, they are now considered a destructive species to be controlled by methods other than sport hunting," according to TWRA regulations on the state government website.
Regulations enacted in 2011 removed wild hogs from the state's big-game category.
Bradley County Commissioner Terry Caywood considered making a change to the county's official position on the matter in mid-December, saying he had been contacted by wildlife officials and local residents who said that the use of hunting dogs actually contributed to the problem by driving wild hogs onto other properties instead of eliminating them.
"That in itself made sense to me," said Caywood, who ultimately withdrew the measure before its scheduled vote at the Dec. 16 meeting of the Bradley County Commission because, he said, he could not find enough evidence to support the position.
There is no substantial evidence to support the theory that hunting dogs increase the spread of feral hog populations, County Commission Vice Chairman Adam Lowe said at that meeting.
The use of hunting dogs to control wild hogs seemed little different than the use of mules to protect livestock by driving away coyotes, Commissioner Mel Griffith said.
But hunting may not always be the most effective way to control wild hogs, according to Mississippi State University's "Wild Pig Info" website.
"Though trapping is most efficient means of removing pigs from an area, dog hunting is the effective means of removing trap-shy or 'educated' pigs that have altered their activity patterns based on previous experience with traps," the website states.
The Associated Press reported Sunday that workers at a historic plantation in south Georgia are using cougar urine to scare off feral hogs that have rooted grass and damaged a nature trail.
The manager of the historic Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation, Bill Giles, said he was initially skeptical after getting advice to use the urine to ward off hogs, the AP reported, but the hogs appeared to go away after he spread the powdered urine around sites that he wanted to protect.
Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at email@example.com.