Protecting hunting habitats starts with us
Two of the biggest current threats to wildlife in our state are wild hogs and chronic wasting disease.
The current wild hog problem and confirmation of a CWD-positive deer this year in Issaquena County are examples of how the selfish actions of a very small segment of the hunting population can set off a negative chain of reactions that reach beyond the initial impact to wildlife species.
Unfortunately, the wild hog problem is one with which many Mississippi landowners and farmers have become acquainted. For many years, there have been populations of wild hogs in a few areas of the state. However, it was not until the last 10 to 15 years that wild hogs became a problem throughout our state.
The reason, you may ask? Because a very small segment of the hunting population wants to be able to hunt wild hogs and not travel very far to do it. Some of these individuals set about catching, translocating, and releasing wild hogs in different areas around the state.
The results: 1. Nearly $70 million in damages per year throughout the state to farm equipment, agricultural crops, timber production, lawns, golf courses, utility and road rights-of-way and levees; 2. A highly invasive and destructive species that not only competes with native wildlife for food resources but can also be a predator of native wildlife; and 3. A nuisance and pest species that will require much time, effort, and expense to control for the foreseeable future.
The recent case of CWD documented in a Mississippi deer is another potential example. We still don’t know how this disease made its way to our state, and we may never know.
However, for the sake of argument, let’s say at some point in recent years, someone imported several deer from another part of the country and released them into the wild with the goal of improving or boosting the genetics in their local deer herd. If it doesn’t work, what could it possibly hurt to turn loose a few deer?
As far as harm to the state’s deer herd, we’re still in “wait and see” mode. In the meantime, the cost in taxpayer dollars and hours spent collecting deer from the impact zone, obtaining and submitting deer tissue samples to laboratories for CWD testing, and disposing of carcasses and meeting biosafety specifications are approaching close to $1 million.
What might the future hold if more CWD-positive deer begin showing up in this area? What impact will this have on hunter numbers and hunting license revenue? What impact will it have on hunting leases? Again, we just have to wait until we learn more about the extent of the disease in Mississippi.
The bottom line is that, many times, our actions are subject to the law of unintended consequences. Unfortunately, when it comes to our natural resources, the consequences are very often severe and far-reaching.
Editor’s Note: Extension Outdoors is a column authored by several different experts in the Mississippi State University Extension Service.