Feral hogs a scourge to state

Talk to any upland game biologist and, to a man and woman, they’ll tell you there are two kinds of landowners in Louisiana, those who have feral hogs and those who will have feral hogs.

Stories abound across bottomland hardwoods, fields, even the swamps between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, and most certainly in the vast Atchafalaya Basin, hogs have become a scourge similar to the decades-long, nutria-wrought destruction in the marshlands.

Hurricane Isaac’s inundation of tens of thousands of acres bordering Lake Maurepas and the northern end of Lake Pontchartrain caused so many problems for native wildlife that state biologists recommended, and the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission approved, a cut of more than half the days off the firearms-for-deer seasons throughout most of the southeastern parishes.

The biologists feared their observations accounted for as much as 90 percent fawn mortality and “severe stress’ on the adult whitetails.

Yet, the hogs persisted, so much so that a bumper crop of acorns that could aid in the survival of Isaac-affected deer herds are feeding rampaging hogs.

In the months leading up to Isaac’s sweep through Louisiana’s heartland in late August, the problem with feral hogs had reached critical mass. The State Legislature spent hours hammering out new regulations, most with the approval of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, to allow year-round, daytime-only hunting for hogs, then they threw coyotes, nutria, beaver and armadillos in for good measure.

This year, another new law carried hunting for these five animals to the night hours. It allowed the use of sound suppression devices, mostly because landowners with feral hogs problems found that the report from one shot scattered hogs in every direction. That meant that instead of being able to dispatch a handful rooting acorns, they get only one, and the other 5, 10 sometimes 20 run off to parts unknown.

The new law applies to all Louisiana’s private lands, and reads, “the landowner, or his lessee or agent with written permission and the landowner’s contact information in his possession, may take outlaw quadrupeds during nighttime hours from one-half hour after official sunset on the last day of February to one-half hour after sunset the last day of August of that same year.”

Until then, taking feral hogs is legal during hunting hours for deer, that being one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.

If a hunter wants to use a sound suppressor, the same regulations apply, and that hunter must apply for a federal permit to have, then use a “silencer.”

And the hunter who wants to hunt at night next year should know that he or she must advise the parish sheriff within 24 hours of the planned nighttime hunt.

Big winners

Baton Rouge anglers John Waitz and Roberto Sanchez teamed with Toby Berthelot from Addis and Juan Carlos Sanchez from El Salvador to win the 18th El Salvador International Billfish Tournament.

They were fishing aboard the “White Marlin,” a 31-foot Bertram registered out of Houma, and took the tournament’s top marlin.

“We have fished this tournament for the past seven years and have always been the bridesmaid and never the bride,” Waitz said. “We have finished third twice, second twice and (finished) at least top seven for the past six years.

Waitz said that the giant blue hit a “Black Bart” lure five minutes after they set the lines.

Rohwer new Delta boss

LSU professor Frank Rohwer was named Delta Waterfowl’s interim president after Rob Olsen stepped down after more than 20 years with the Bismarck, N.D.-based conservation organization.

Olsen, from Winnipeg, Canada, joined Delta in 1992 when he was working on his master’s degree in natural resources management. He was appointed Delta’s president in 2003 and launched programs that swelled the group’s ranked each of the last nine years. He said he’s leaving to spend more time with his family and friends back in Winnipeg.

Rohwer has been Delta’s Scientific Director. He started his tenure at Delta when he was a student in 1976, and the organization funded his master’s degree and doctorate work. He took over Delta’s scientific section in 1991, and has continued to direct students into waterfowl management in undergraduate and graduate studies at LSU.