Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge will conduct aerial feral swine control on refuge lands Tuesday through Thursday.
In order to assure public safety, portions of the refuge public use areas will be temporarily closed during this time while control activities are underway. Closed areas will include Burma Road, Quanah Mountain, Crater Creek, French Lake, Fawn Creek, Quetone Point, Parallel Forest, and Mt. Scott Picnic Area. Refuge staff intend to have these areas re-opened to the public by noon, after control operations have ceased. Control activities will continue in other areas of the refuge, which will not require any public use closures, according to a press release.
Feral swine are non-native and a nuisance species that compete with Oklahoma’s native wildlife for food causing significant disturbance to native habitat. They also serve as disease reservoirs and pose a threat to the health of humans, pets, agricultural lands, and native wildlife. The first documented record of feral swine in the United States was in Florida in 1593. Introductions followed in several other southeastern states, which led to established free-ranging populations throughout the region. Populations then spread throughout the southeast and mid-south states. Today, Oklahoma is home to an estimated 600,000 to 1.5 million feral swine. Their numbers and range continue to increase due to their high reproductive potential and lack of natural predators, according to a press release.
Based on sightings, habitat disturbance, and current control efforts, feral swine remain a substantial concern on Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. Detrimental effects are visible in every habitat type and pose a serious threat to native wildlife throughout the refuge. Refuge staff routinely take action to help control the hog population through removal of individual animals.
In 2015, the refuge initiated another more effective method by adding aerial control. This method proved highly effective throughout the refuge expending much less time and effort. It also allowed for control operations in less accessible areas of the refuge. Aerial shooting operations are conducted by one helicopter using specially trained U.S. Department of Agriculture personnel following policy and procedures established to ensure safe, humane, and environmentally sound practices, according to a press release.
Although the refuge does not anticipate any changes to the above mentioned closures, the public is reminded to follow all area restrictions and closure signage.