The growing feral hog problem will be difficult to solve with trapping alone, county commissioners said Monday.
Commissioners told Bennie Cook of U.S. Rep. Jason Smith’s office that landowners affected by feral hogs should be allowed to hunt the hogs if necessary to eradicate them. Cook was on hand for Monday’s commission session.
Presiding Commissioner Darrell Skiles, who attended a meeting on feral hogs hosted by the U.S. Forest Service in Rolla last week, said consideration must be given to methods other than just trapping to solve the problem. The Forest Service is gathering public input on possible regulations banning hunting the hogs on federal land.
“My problem with this total ban without dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s is if a landowner next to the National Forest ends up with some hogs on his property, that landowner needs to be able to have authority and not be fearing arrest and fines to chase them to Kingdom Come if he has to,” he told Cook. “The National Forest shouldn’t serve as a refuge if they’re tearing up private property.”
Skiles said he doesn’t believe enough trappers have been assigned to cover the estimated 1.6 million acres affected. He said landowners should notify the Forest Service if their property is being invaded by the hogs, but they should also have the authority to kill them.
Cook called it a hot topic across the Eighth Congressional District. “We’re closely monitoring that situation,” he said. “We expect to know something by August once all the public comments are complete. We’re staying very involved in the process.”
Skiles said he also understands the other side of the issue. “There should also be stiffer penalties for anyone who knowingly interferes with trapping operations,” he said.
First District Commissioner Dennis Purcell asked if bounties were discussed at the meeting. He said a $25 bounty on coyotes was effective in the past. Skiles said he’s heard it’s not considered a viable option and has been tried unsuccessfully in other states.
Cook encouraged the public to make sure their comments are turned into the Forest Service. “The Forest Service understands your stance on this,” he said. “They need to know how everybody in the area feels about that so they can make a well-informed decision when it comes that time.”
From his own experience, Purcell said, “It looks like there needs to be a combined effort. Unless there’s a tremendous amount of resources the Forest Service is willing to budget, I don’t think they can do it on their own” with just trapping.
“Are there enough trappers? That’s the main discussion,” Cook said. “These hunters are helping take care of the problem by eradicating the hogs.”
On another topic, he said a letter of support from Smith has been submitted on a federal grant request for paving a half-mile section of county road 6670. Purcell said he appreciated the support. Cook offered to provide more letters of support for projects as needed.
Under commission reports, Purcell said his district received two inches of rain since Thursday and was buffered by high winds. Crews were out Monday checking for storm damage, removing debris, low hanging limbs and leaning trees and cleaning culverts, as well as brush cutting on county road 4110.
Second District Commissioner Gary Larson said his crews were also checking for damage, cutting up tree limbs and cutting brush on 6150, 6130 and 6140. One crew member was sent to Springfield to pick up oil for chip and seal repairs.
At the meeting Thursday, commissioners heard a jail update from architects at ShiveHattery and construction managers from Septagon. The project budget has been revised to $12.89 million with $8.8 million remaining to be paid. Steve Davis of ShiveHattery also said construction of a new courtroom on top of the jail is not feasible, referring to a story in The Salem News.
Skiles said the commission is not looking at constructing one there. If a courtroom is built, it would be on property between the jail and the parking lot west of the jail, he said.
Deloris Gray Wood came in to discuss the 150-year anniversary of the courthouse next year and a possible date for the celebration.
Randy League asked for permission to hold the Current River Blue Oval Car Rally. He was granted a request to use the courthouse lawn Sept. 7.
Treasurer Denita Williams reported that $57,048 was received in CART funds for June. Those funds are down 1.18 percent year to date.
Under commission reports, Purcell said crews would be grading on county roads 5410, 5440 and 6350, installing a culvert pipe on 6055, grading and hauling material to 5170 and cutting brush on 4110. Trash was dumped on 5015 and Highway B. He asked anyone with information to contact the Sheriff’s Office at 729-3241.
In the Second District, Larson reported crews would be grading on county roads 3140, 6160, 4040, 2183, 2185, 2180, 2210 and 4260, grading and hauling material to 2183, 2185 and 2180, patching chip and seal on 2250 and brush cutting on 3255.