Oklahoma landowners apparently worry more about wild hunters than wild hogs.
Two months ago the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry established an online directory in an attempt to connect hunters and trappers with landowners who are having problems with feral hogs.
“We were hopeful we would have a good pool of both,” said Blayne Arthur, associate commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Agricutlure, Food and Forestry.
Instead, she is surprised by how many hunters and how few landowners have signed up for the registry. More than 500 hunters and trappers have signed up for it but only one landowner.
The damage being caused by feral hogs in Oklahoma hasn’t been overstated. The wild pigs are causing severe economic losses to ranchers and farmers. Oklahoma landowners just don’t seem to trust hunters.
The agency constantly hears from landowners about feral hog problems but most would rather call hunters on their own rather than make their contact information publicly available, Arthur said. And some landowners are reluctant to sign up because of bad experiences with hunters in the past, she said.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Irresponsible hunters who don’t shut gates, damage and litter another man’s property always have eliminated hunting opportunities for others. Even worse are the trespassers and poachers that Oklahoma landowners often have to battle.
That problem has been so bad that a group of landowners in southern Oklahoma in 2007 formed the Oklahoma Wildlife Management Association. The group has successfully lobbied state lawmakers to pass stiffer penalties for trespassing effective this month.
Not only does trespassing and poaching result in landowners denying hunting opportunities to all, but it even discourages them from maintaining or managing wildlife on their land, said Mike Porter, wildlife and fisheries consultant with the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation in Ardmore.
“Trespassing and poaching are two of the greatest impediments to wildlife management on private land,” he said.
The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry issued another news release Monday hoping to persuade more landowners to sign up for it feral swine registry, pointing out that Oklahoma laws limit the liability of landowners when people are invited on their land to hunt.
The agency also suggested that landowners require hunters to sign a written release covering the type of activities that will take place. But it appears that persuading them to add their names to the registry is going to be a tough sell.
Even if landowners don’t want to sign up, at least they will have an extensive list of hog hunters and trappers they can call to help rid them of the feral swine, Arthur said
“No question it is a great resource for landowners who want to reach out to hunters and trappers,” she said. But how many of them will?