Pro­tect­ing hunt­ing habi­tats starts with us

Starkville Daily News - - YOUTH BASEBALL OUTDOORS -

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.

Ex­ten­sion Out­doors is a col­umn au­thored by sev­eral dif­fer­ent ex­perts in the Mis­sis­sippi State Univer­sity Ex­ten­sion Ser­vice. Bill Ham­rick is with the MSU Ex­ten­sion Ser­vice. The opin­ions in this col­umn are Ham­rick’s and do not nec­es­sar­ily re­flect the views of The Starkville Daily News or its staff.

Ham­rick

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