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June 24, 2010

General Assembly passes new law on transporting, hunting feral pigs

The South Carolina General Assembly recently passed a new law that prohibits the removal or transport of feral pigs from the wild without a permit. The law also allows hunters to harvest these highly destructive and invasive animals at night with certain weapons restrictions. This is part of a continuing effort by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to reduce and curtail the expansion of the feral pig population. This effort was supported by many other agencies such as SC Department of Agriculture, SC Department of Health and Environmental Control, Clemson Livestock and Poultry Health, USDA Veterinary and Wildlife Services and the SC Farm Bureau.
           
According to the new law, hogs may be hunted at night with an artificial light that is carried on theFeral pig hunter's person, attached to a helmet or hat, or part of a belt system worn by the hunter and with a sidearm that has iron sites, and barrel length not exceeding nine inches. The sidearm may not be equipped with a butt-stock, scope, laser site, or light emitting or light enhancing device. However, hogs may not be hunted at night from a vehicle, or with a centerfire rifle or shotgun, unless specifically permitted by the department. Hogs can be hunted at night using dogs as long as the firearms used comply with the restrictions above.  There are no weapons restrictions for hunting hogs on private land during the day. DNR encourages those who have wild hogs on properties they own or hunt to lethally and legally remove every hog they have the opportunity to remove.
           
A person must now obtain an annual pig transport and release permit (Adobe PDF) from DNR for $50 before transporting and/or releasing a pig from a free roaming population. All pigs must also be tagged as prescribed on the permit with tags provided by the Department.  A permitted pig must be released on the same tract on which it was captured or into a permitted pig enclosure utilized for hunting purposes. Under no circumstances may a live pig removed from the wild be transported through or into another county or be released in a county other than the county in which it was captured.

A pig hunting enclosure owner must now obtain an annual pig enclosure permit (Adobe PDF) from DNR for $50 in order to release wild caught hogs into the enclosure. Hogs must be obtained from someone with a pig transport permit and must be tagged and captured in the county where the enclosure is located. Enclosure operators cannot obtain wild caught hogs from another county.  The enclosure will be inspected by DNR personnel before a permit  is issued in order to ensure any captured pig released into the enclosure is not likely to escape back into the wild.
           
Feral pigs have been called by some an "ecological train wreck" and the destructive nature of this invasive species lends itself easily to such a description. All feral pigs share an unbridled appetite and can destroy hundreds of acres of farmland as well as native plants and wildlife habitat in just a few short nights. Free roaming pigs reproduce at a prodigious rate and are capable of producing two litters of up to a dozen piglets a year.
           
Feral hogs carry diseases such as brucellosis and pseudorabies. Pseudorabies is a viral disease of the central nervous system that can affect domestic hogs, cattle, horses, goats, sheep, dogs and cats, but is not related to the rabies virus and does not cause serious disease in humans. Brucellosis is caused by a bacterium and can infect livestock and humans.  It is a significant threat to commercial swine and can cause a range of symptoms in humans that are similar to the flu.  Wild pigs also have internal parasites including roundworms, liver flukes and, trichinosis. Trichinosis infections in humans are caused by consumption of undercooked, infected pork.

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