Select rural residents of Horry and Georgetown counties should expect a survey soon from Clemson University as researchers there are looking to quantify the damage done in recent years by wild hogs.
It’s part of a statewide effort aimed at helping create a feral hog management strategy that includes workshops and community outreach.
Shari Rodriguez, a Clemson wildlife biologist who specializes in wildlife conservation on private lands, said a random sample of 2,500 landowners will be surveyed and those results will be combined with information that residents voluntary provide at www.clemson.edu/extension/natural_resources/wildlife/wildhogs.
“It’s looking at ‘What’s your experience with hogs?’ because the majority of people’s experience is negative in the form of damage, with damage to their land, damage to their homes,” Rodriguez said. “We’re trying to understand what’s the extent of the damage. Of course the majority of the damage is going to be agricultural or to sod and grassy areas.”
Past studies show feral hogs cause billions of dollars per year of economic damage in the U.S., but there is no data on the damage they are causing in South Carolina, which is why Clemson is administering the study.
Ben Powell, a natural resource agent with Clemson extension, has met with Horry County officials and some homeowners associations because of complaints of damage created by wild hogs.
In recent years, Colonial Charters Homeowners Association contacted county officials about the wild hog problem it has seen, which some credit to the high waters of the Waccamaw River.
Powell has said wild hogs cause damage to forest lands and agricultural lands, and they spread disease to farm animals and to people when they are killed and processed for food.
The survey asks landowners questions about issues they are having with wild hogs, what techniques they currently use to control hog populations and whether they see the hogs as a benefit or a nuisance.
The researchers will compile and analyze the data and submit a report to the U.S. Department of Agriculture by March 2016.
Some South Carolina farmers report massive crop damage and hire teams of hunters with high-powered rifles to keep from being overrun. This research is a collaboration between the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA Wildlife Services, South Carolina Farm Bureau and South Carolina Wild Hog Task Force.
Rodriguez said the survey will be combined with the second part of the study that looks at effective ways to trap and dispatch. She said it’s hard to gauge where Horry and Georgetown counties’ numbers are compared to the rest of the state.
“We don’t know hot spots yet, which is part of the reason we’re doing this survey,” Rodriguez said. “It’s not going to get the full picture. The survey is not the end-all, be-all of information on hogs, but boy it’s a good start. Our hope is to continue on with this line of research and expand it with future grants from government agencies that will help us look at the broader scope of the Southeast with regards to hogs and hog damage.”