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S.C. House passes bill to make it easier to prosecute illegal transfer of feral hogs

Wild hogs can be dilemma for South Carolina deer hunters (copy) (copy)

A bill that would make it easier to prosecute the illegal transport of feral hogs has passed the S.C. House. File/Charles Ruth/SCDNR

MONCKS CORNER – A bill has passed the S.C. House aimed at preventing people from illegally moving feral hogs from their property to a neighbor’s property.

The illegal transport of feral hogs has become an issue across rural South Carolina as some residents have trapped and then dumped the pigs miles away from their own property.

A bill that would make it easier to prosecute the illegal transport of feral pigs passed the chamber earlier this week and now goes to the Senate.

Rep. Sylleste Davis, R-Moncks Corner, introduced the bill (H. 3539) to make it easier for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources to enforce existing laws that prohibit the transport of feral hogs.

Under the bill, farmers transporting pigs would need "an official form of identification" to transport hogs.

The "official form of identification" will be determined by the state veterinarian after consultation with hog farms of all sizes to ensure ease of access.

The legislation sailed through the Statehouse’s lower chamber 98-2 on Feb. 23 and was referred to the Senate’s Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources the following day.

“The bill is trying to make it easier for the Department of Natural Resources to determine what’s a domestic hog or a feral hog,” Davis said.

“This is small part of a bigger problem and that’s to try and stop the spread of feral hogs, which do a tremendous amount of damage to our farmers in our state,” she said.

In South Carolina, the population of wild hogs has taken off recently as the animal has reproduced nearly unchecked and people illegally move them from one place to another in order to hunt them. They now are found in all 46 counties of the state, mostly along river basins — an estimated 130,000 to 140,000 of them, according to DNR. A sow can breed some 30 piglets per year.

The pigs root up native forest vegetation and plantings, till through suburban lawns and drive off other game, creating $115 million worth of problems for the state's agriculture, livestock and timber industries, according to a 2018 Clemson study.

Harry Dupree, who grows corn, cotton and soybeans on his 350-acre farm in Cordesville, estimates that hogs are responsible for about $15,000 worth of damage each year.

“They can eat up an entire 25-acre field in one night,” Dupree said. “If something isn’t done about them soon, farming in the Berkeley County will be all but gone in a few years.”

South Carolina law has lifted most restraints on shooting or trapping the animals statewide. But the pigs are so prolific that no one really expects that alone will stop the population from growing, much less reduce its numbers.

“We must take action to eliminate this nuisance,” said S.C. Farm Bureau president Harry Ott. “The feral hog transport bill, is a step in the right direction in helping control the wild hog population. It will be an important tool for law enforcement to identify individuals illegally transporting feral hogs and will help them prosecute the offenders.”

About 30,000 hogs have been taken annually by licensed deer hunters in recent years, according to DNR.

“I’ve always said if the hogs ever got onto a golf course, we’d have this problem solved by tomorrow,” Dupree said.

The Farm Bureau has requested $500,000 from the S.C. House Ways and Means Committee to match a federal grant of $500,000 for additional feral hog traps.

Reach Andrew Miller at 843-937-5599. Follow him on Twitter @APMILLER_PandC

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