Wild hogs being wild hogs has prompted the Bradley County Commission to join other cities and counties in requesting that state government make changes on how property owners can handle the animals on their own land and that a hunting season be created for them again.
The hogs “cause extensive damage” to farmers’ crops, carry diseases and ruin some wildlife habitats. The animals have also spread throughout the state and can be found in 80 of the states 95 counties, according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency’s website. They were once only located in 15 Tennessee counties.
In 1999, the TWRA introduced a hunting season to control the wild hog population as it continued to grow. While they were once considered to be “big game animals” by the state, regulations passed in 2011 dictated that wild hogs were to be considered “a destructive species to be controlled by methods other than sport hunting.”
Private property owners can shoot and trap hogs on their own land year-round, according to TWRA regulations. Currently, residents of four counties in an “experimental area” — Cumberland, Fentress, Overton and Pickett — can use dogs to hunt the animals.
Other counties, including Bradley, have been passing local government resolution to ask the state to allow people to use dog hunting as an additional means for controlling the wild hog population. Additionally, many are asking that a dedicated hunting season be reintroduced. While hogs can still be hunted in some instances, a hunter cannot make them their main prey.
Bradley County Commissioner Terry Caywood said some local wildlife officials have told the Commission that hunters can kill wild hogs while hunting for other animals. For example, a hunter can shoot a hog if they run across one while hunting for squirrels or rabbits. However, he said he thought that would simply encourage hunters to make plans to hunt hogs anyway because certain guns and ammunition needed to be used for the larger animals.
He argued that hog hunting should be made legal so people can do so without fear of stepping into murky legal territory.
“To keep law-abiding citizens within the law, it needs to change,” Caywood said.
On Nov. 19, the Bradley County Commission passed a resolution that requested that there be dedicated hog hunting season within designated state wildlife areas and that property owners could be able to use dogs to get rid of the animals on their own land.
However, the matter reappeared on the agenda for the Commission’s Dec. 16 meeting after some people had contacted commissioners saying using dogs only added to the wild hog problem.
Caywood, who proposed the second resolution, said his opinion was swayed when local citizens and wildlife officials contacted him saying they believed using dogs to manage was a bad thing. The argument was that the dogs would merely chase the wild hogs from one property into another, spreading the problem rather than eradicating it.
“That in itself made sense to me,” Caywood said.
However, he said that between placing the item on the agenda and the meeting itself, he did some research on the issue. Caywood said he had come to the conclusion that there was not enough evidence to support the claim that using dogs would be detrimental. He ultimately pulled the item from the Commission’s agenda before it could go to a vote.
The Commission’s original resolution still stands. For now, Bradley County has joined others within the state asking for the creation of a hog hunting season and for hunting dogs to be used everywhere.
Polk County is also among the local government entities that have decided to speak out on the issue. The Polk County Commission passed a resolution in mid-October requesting a dedicated season for hunting with dogs on federal wildlife management areas and for property owners to be able to decide what is “appropriate” to address the issue on their own land, a Polk County newspaper reported.
“There’s no guarantee that they’ll listen to us,” Caywood said. “We’ll see.”