SPRINGFIELD, IL – A new administrative rule regulating the release, transportation, and harvest of feral swine (wild hogs) in Illinois is now in effect. Hunters should be aware they will only be allowed to harvest feral swine during Illinois’ firearm deer seasons. The new rule, approved by the Illinois General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) on March 19, is designed to help the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) better address the management of feral swine and deter those who would seek to establish and promote hunting of feral swine in Illinois.
“Feral swine are detrimental to wildlife and wildlife habitat and can spread disease. This new rule will make it possible for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to more effectively control the spread of feral swine in Illinois,” said IDNR Director Marc Miller. “Through our collaborative efforts with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we are well on our way to eliminating feral swine from our landscape.”
The IDNR, in cooperation with the U.S.D.A.’s Wildlife Services program have worked closely with dozens of landowners in Effingham, Clay, Fayette, and Marion Counties for the past three years to eliminate a population of invasive feral swine causing severe damage to wildlife habitat, wetlands, and agricultural crops in the region. The IDNR and Wildlife Services have also worked with a multitude of landowners to reduce a population of feral swine in Fulton County. The population, once estimated to exceed 400 individuals, is down to less than approximately 20 animals. IDNR and U.S.D.A. biologists are hopeful this population can be completely eliminated within the next several months.
The new rule (17 Ill. Adm. Code 700 – Wild Swine) makes it illegal to hunt or shoot feral swine outside of the firearm, muzzleloader, late-winter antlerless, and CWD deer seasons. Hunters must be legally hunting deer during those seasons, and if they see a wild hog, they will be able to shoot it.
Limiting the circumstances under which a hunter can shoot feral swine will also deter those who would bring feral swine into Illinois illegally to promote hunting of wild hogs. By restricting the release and harvest of feral swine, IDNR hopes to prevent the culture of hunting wild hogs from developing, as the costs of having these damaging animals far outweighs the benefits. The new rule also is intended to prevent trespassing. Since feral swine could be shot year round before implementation of the new rule, some were tempted to trespass on private property in pursuit of wild hogs.
“By itself, hunting of feral swine is not an effective method of control,” said Mark Alessi, assistant chief of the IDNR Division of Wildlife Resources. “Shooting tends to scatter the remaining individuals, and this makes it very difficult for our biologists to track the pigs and impedes our efforts to trap and remove multiple animals at once.” “We support the hunters who are able to shoot feral swine during the deer seasons, and we ask that they inform us when they shoot one. We have conducted a scientific survey of landowners, and the majority of landowners support our management efforts.”
Feral swine (Sus scrofa) originated from varieties of introduced domestic swine, Eurasian wild boar, and their hybrids, and are currently found in Illinois. Feral swine cause more than $1.5 billion annually in damage and management costs nationwide. Feral swine have a high reproduction rate, eat just about anything they can find, and are extremely smart. They can produce two litters a year, with up to 10 piglets each time. They have no natural predators, aside from humans, in Illinois. Their diet and destructive rooting behaviors are detrimental to wildlife and wildlife habitat.
Under the new rule, feral swine can be taken legally in the following manners in Illinois:
1. Hunters, who are legally deer-hunting during firearm deer seasons, will be able to legally shoot feral swine. They will also be required to report the harvest of feral swine during firearm deer seasons to the IDNR. Hunters are asked to report feral swine harvest to Doug Dufford, IDNR Wildlife Disease and Invasive Animals Program Manager, at (815) 369-2414. Hunters who legally harvest feral swine are able to keep the meat if they desire.
2. It is now illegal to guide or be an outfitter for feral swine hunting. It is also illegal to hunt feral swine in an enclosure.
3. Landowners are required to obtain a nuisance wildlife permit if they see feral swine on their property and want to personally remove the swine outside of the “gun” deer seasons, or they can contact IDNR staff for assistance in removing feral swine at no charge to the landowner.