HomeOutdoorsNewsFederal Sharpshooters Take Aim at Wild Hogs in Congaree National Park

Federal Sharpshooters Take Aim at Wild Hogs in Congaree National Park

by Taylor Cunningham
Gail Shotlander/Getty

Federal sharpshooters headed into South Carolina’s Congaree National Park last month in an attempt to quell the wild hog population that has been wreaking havoc on the preserve’s swampy 27,000-acre ecosystem.

The government started the program back in 2015. And it continued it in October by closing the park to the public and sending the shooters inside to hunt as many pigs as possible. During their efforts, they killed 45, which brings the seven-year total to about 1,000.

The first year saw 100 wild hogs shot, and the federal agents killed around the same amount each following year, except in 2017 when they counted 241 kills.

The recent operation focused on remote areas inside Congaree that had been “heavily hit by hogs,” according to the parks environmental official, David Shelly. A monitoring group studied and documented the damage done by the hogs in advance and found that the animals had done serious damage to the plants in those locations.

“This was shooting hogs in the backcountry while they were feeding in there,’’ Shelley noted.

Wild Hogs Will Eat Anything that ‘Fits in Their Mouths’ and That’s Bad News for the Park’s Ecosystem

Wild pigs are a serious problem because they will eat practically anything. In the South Carolina park, they’ve been feasting on small animals, acorns, plants, and more. And officials have noted a serious decrease in salamander and snake populations since pigs invaded.

“Hogs are extremely impactful to the environment with their rooting behavior,’’ said Shelley. “If it has a calorie in it, and it fits in their mouths, they will eat it. Roots, nuts, seeds, snakes, turtles. Baby deer have shown up in hogs. Everything.’’

And the issues extend past over-eating. The pigs are also digging up the ground around the local streams and causing waste and sediment to leach into the water. The fecal matter also gets into the streams and causes “bacterial contaminations” that are dangerous to swimmers, kayakers, and fish.

Officials have yet to decide if the program is actually making a difference. Congaree managers have said that they believe they are fewer feral pigs rooting through the preserve. But because hogs reproduce easily and quickly, the organizers can’t be sure that killing 50 to 100 a year will truly slow growth.

According to research, the government would have to take out 70 percent of the population to help the situation. And the park managers admit that they don’t have a reliable method of counting in place, so they don’t know what 70 percent equals. However, they estimate that up to 400 hogs live in the park at any given time. The entire state is home to about 150,000 wild hogs.