Outdoors column: Hog damage reduced for North Island

01/30/2014 3:05 PM

01/30/2014 3:06 PM

The feral hogs that inhabit North Island continue to do their share of damage, but progress is being made in limiting the most critical damage they do on the uninhabited barrier island located on the north side of Georgetown’s Winyah Bay.

The non-native hogs on the island have been hunted and trapped over the years because of their appetite for destruction. They destroy the landscape and native plants, and jeopardize the nesting success of ground-nesting birds and sea turtles along the beaches.

Each February on specified dates, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources allows hunters to hunt the hogs with dogs on the island and the cumulative effect of years of hunts appears to be helping.

The best news is the number of sea turtle nests destroyed on the island is way down, according to Jamie Dozier, wildlife biologist with the S.C. DNR.

“It’s hard to say if we’re making progress on the number of hogs, there’s no good way to survey them,” said Dozier earlier this week. “Destroying the sea turtle nests are at the top of the list of things they do that are most bothersome.

“But damage to turtle nests has changed over the last couple years,” Dozier continued. “In 2011, we lost 138 nests, 87 percent of all the nests on North Island. Last year we only lost two. We went from 87 percent to 1 percent of the nests lost to depredation by hogs. We were pleasantly surprised by the decrease. It’s hard to knock their numbers down and turn the damage around so we’ve been pretty happy with the success so far.”

That’s where the hunts come in. In essence, the hogs have learned to avoid the beach on the island, which features 1,410 acres of uplands including beach areas and 1,703 acres of marsh.

“Research has shown hogs can learn where they are trapped and hunted and they avoid those areas,” said Dozier. “Most people start out on the beach areas when they’re hunting. We think we may be getting some of those hogs that live on the interface between the beach and woods. We also think getting into the turtle nests is a learned behavior. If we get rid of the (hogs) that have learned (to feed on the turtle nests), it may take a while for the others to learn to do that.”

The trio of three-day hunts are scheduled on Thursday-Saturday in February, including Feb. 13-15, 20-22, and Feb. 27-March 1 from sunrise to sunset only.

Dozier says the hunts are particularly popular among hunters from out of the area who enjoy hunting with dogs.

“We’ve kind of got a core group of people we see every year,” said Dozier. “People travel from a long way off and stay the whole three-day period of the hunt. Some come from the from upstate [of South Carolina] and from the North Carolina mountains.”

Hunters must comply with the following guidelines in order to participate in the North Island hog hunts with dogs:

• No more than four bay or catch dogs per party.
• No still or stalk hunting is allowed.
• One shotgun permitted per party (buckshot only), and sidearms will also be permitted.
• Hog hunters must have in their possession a valid South Carolina hunting license.
• All hunters are required to wear a hat, coat, or vest of solid international orange while hunting.
• Hogs may not be removed from North Island alive.

DNR staff will periodically be on site to collect pertinent information. For more information contact the Yawkey Wildlife Center at (843) 546-6814.

Conway tiger seminars

The wintry weather is out of the way and spring is on the horizon, so why not spend your Saturday gleaning some saltwater and freshwater fishing knowledge from local experts while contributing to a good cause?

The 2nd Annual Tiger Anglers Fishing Seminar will be held Saturday at Conway High School and will feature six prominent captains with a wealth of knowledge of local saltwater fishing.

The seminar benefits Tiger Anglers, including the competitive teams at Conway High School, Conway Middle School and Whittemore Park Middle School.

“Our seminar is designed “for fishermen” to come learn more about the art of catching fish,” said Rayburn Poston, coach of the Conway High team. “Our speakers will be giving presentations but they will make time to answer questions on any level.”

Cost is $20 for adults with students admitted free with ID. The seminar is geared for adult attendees and also features $2,000 in raffle prizes.

Three seminars will be held with two captains teaming up to conduct each seminar. The details of each seminar including start time follow:

• 8:30 a.m.: Capt. Greg Holmes of Fish Skinny Guide and Capt. Fred Rourk of Sweet Tea Charters will discuss inshore fishing techniques for targeting multiple species in waters from Georgetown to Little River.
• 9:30 a.m.: Capt. Jason Burton and Capt. J Baisch of Fishful Thinking Guide Service will discuss all the options of fishing the near-shore reefs including when and how to target each species of fish.
• 10:30 a.m.: Capt. Jay Sconyers of Aces Up Fishing and Capt. Englis Glover of the Reelin’ Up The Coast television show will discuss offshore fishing for dolphin, wahoo and tuna, plus Sconyers will share cast-net throwing techniques.
• Seminars will also be held on bass fishing at 8:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.

For more information, call 902-4274.

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