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State Agriculture Department Hires First Feral Hog Program Coordinator

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by Tyler Hale

The Arkansas Department of Agriculture has named its first Feral Hog Eradication Program Coordinator. The department has tapped John Paul (J.P.) Fairhead to serve in the role.

Fairhead brings significant experience with feral hogs to this new role. Since 2008, Fairhead has worked as a Natural Resource Program Technician Field Biologist with Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and has served as the AGFC’s Feral Hog Eradication Program Coordinator since 2013. In addition, he has been active on the Arkansas Feral Hog Eradication Task Force since its formation in 2017.

“J.P. brings extensive knowledge of statewide feral hog control activities to the Department,” Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward said in a statement.  “We look forward to putting J.P.’s expertise to work as we implement the new feral hog eradication program in project areas across the state,” said Ward.

Arkansas recently received funding through the United States Department of Agriculture to combat feral hogs and the impact they have on the agricultural industry. Through the USDA Feral Swine Eradication and Control Pilot Program, Arkansas and nine other states a total of $16.7 million. Arkansas will receive $3.4 million of that total.

Officials say that feral hogs have become a significant problem in recent years. The USDA estimates that feral hogs cause $1.5 billion in damages and control costs every year. In addition, hogs can carry “at least 30 diseases and nearly 40 types of parasites” according to a 2016 USDA study.

In an article for the National Association of County Agricultural Agents, S.M. Tanger, K.M. Guidry and H. Nui argue that the damage estimates are conservative and do not take into account for the full range of the hogs’ impact. The authors cite “environmental degradation, disease outbreaks…clean water losses and animal interactions” as some of the effects that are more difficult to quantify.

“The damages associated with feral hogs negatively impact all Arkansans at some level, whether it’s direct damages to agriculture or reduced native wildlife populations,” Fairhead says. “I look forward to addressing the unique challenges associated with controlling this prolific, destructive, invasive species by partnering with multiple agencies to implement effective control measures. Addressing the feral hog issue will not be a quick-fix; however, I do believe that we can make positive strides to reduce damages if we focus on working together to remove these invasive pests.”

Feral hogs are non-native species to the United States, brought by European colonists. There are an estimated six million feral hogs in more than 35 states.

READ MORE: Hutchinson Aims to Increase UA Division of Agriculture’s Annual Budget

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