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story.lead_photo.caption FILE — This photo provided by the Texas A&M University Research and Extension Center shows feral hogs eating corn at a deer feeder near Overton, Texas, in 2004. (AP Photo/Texas A&M University Research and Extension Center, Dr. Billy Higginbotham)

Feral hogs -- resilient in the face of helicopter assaults, threats of mass poisoning and elaborate traps -- have stumbled into the national debate over the availability of assault-style rifles.

The hogs will win, of course. They always have.

But how, exactly, did we get to a nationwide discussion and meme explosion about feral hogs and the oddly specific range of 30 to 50 of them?

On Sunday, in the wake of mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, musician Jason Isbell questioned why ordinary Americans would need to own an "assault weapon," touching on the pedantic and intricate ways gun-rights advocates define their wares.

"Legit question for rural Americans," responded William McNabb, a Twitter user whose bio says he lives in southern Arkansas. "How do I kill the 30-50 feral hogs that run into my yard within 3-4 mins while my small kids play?"

McNabb's response, and his back-and-forth with Isbell, paralyzed social media with countless memes that poked fun at the idea of semiautomatic rifles as a vital tool in wild hog home defense. An 8-bit game was quickly developed. Even Simpsons writer Bill Oakley created a mock episode script titled "Bart Gets 30-50 Feral Hogs."

And yet, millions of wild hogs have invaded large swaths of the southern United States, eviscerating crops, gobbling up endangered sea turtles and trampling archaeological sites in a rampage that shows no signs of letting up.

There are 6 million of them in at least 39 states, and they are "rapidly expanding," according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They also move in large groups called sounders. One instance in Ohio met McNabb's threshold -- 30 caught in a single trap.

Feral hogs are invasive species that were brought to North America from Europe by Spanish conquistadors, and ever since their population has exploded across the country. Hogs use their snouts to dig through soil, leaving fields scarred and crops flattened, but they also kill livestock and reptiles.

The cost: $1.5 billion a year in damage and control spending, the USDA said in 2016.

That has led to cottage industries of groups that exterminate the animals in all kinds of ways, including with firearms, though the hogs' thick hides can help shield them from rounds fired from AR-15-style rifles.

So is McNabb so off the mark? It is tough to know.

He could not be reached for comment, but in tweets defending his original message, he said hogs have been a persistent issue at home.

Hogs are built to last. They produce large litters and wield stout tusks to defend themselves.

"Hogs are tough, fierce, and hardy beasts," wrote Duke University professor Gabriel Rosenberg, adding that they are helped by a general lack of natural predators and the ability to withstand different climates.

That leaves game officials, farmers and private industry to contend with the expanding hog crisis. In Texas, officials shoot the hogs from low-flying helicopters. Sport hunters there can legally rent a helicopter jump seat and shoot fleeing hogs with AR-15-style rifles.

Of course, that has produced its own Apocalypse Now rip-off. In one video with a million views, a shooter fires at hogs with a semiautomatic shotgun, occasionally at nearly point-blank range, to the soundtrack of Creedence Clearwater Revival.

But Texas Parks and Wildlife has warned that if you're going to hunt feral hogs, an AR-15-type of firearm may not be enough to pierce its tough hide.

"The best rifle calibers to use should be a .243 or greater to prevent wounding and loss of the animal," the agency said, referring to a bullet used for hunting, which packs more of a punch than a typical .223 round associated with AR-15-style rifles.

"Bowhunting, muzzleloading, and handguns are also popular among sportsmen to hunt feral hogs," the agency said.

Texas also tried to introduce pesticide to trigger a "hog apocalypse," as the agricultural commissioner put it, but that plan had setbacks after 200 birds were found dead.

That leaves other methods, including elaborate camera-enabled traps and night hunts using infrared scopes.

Feral hogs are clearly dangerous to wildlife and agriculture, but are they a threat to people, as McNabb suggested?

"In a natural state, feral hogs will prefer to run and escape danger and are not considered dangerous," Texas game officials said.

But people should use caution, game officials added, especially around wounded pigs.

"Their razor sharp-tusks combined with their lightning speed can cause serious injury."

State Desk on 08/07/2019

Print Headline: Arkansan's feral hog post in gun debate takes off

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Archived Comments

  • DBIII
    August 7, 2019 at 8:38 a.m.

    Did he try calling the hogs

  • GandKW
    August 7, 2019 at 9:21 a.m.

    Hogs have been around and have escaped their confines for hundreds of years. Why the population explosion now? TRUMP!! Obviously.

  • Knuckleball1
    August 7, 2019 at 9:29 a.m.

    McNabb is a fool and doesn't have a clue what he is talking about. The Feral Hogs unless messed with mostly come out after dark into yards. The first shot the hogs are going to scatter and he is not going to kill hogs he is going to cripple hogs, which will make them more dangerous. IF his kids out playing late at night then maybe DHS needs to come visit him.

    .......................

    I can kill hogs with a 22 rifle loaded with 22 shorts and drop them like a rock if the shot is placed behind the ear. To many people think they have to have an automatic rifle with large bullets to kill hogs.... HOG WASH...!!!!!
    ..........

    Gone are the days of Marksmanship, today to many people just want to spray lead because they can...and they have a rifle that will do it. Some of us in the South were taught to make a clean kill not to wound an animal....

  • GOHOGS19
    August 7, 2019 at 9:50 a.m.

    wrong knucklehead you have obviously never hog hunted or been around hogs

  • Retirednwsman
    August 7, 2019 at 10:05 a.m.

    Knuckleball1...you are correct. Many of the folks in Arky land couldn’t hit their behinds with both hands. I have a nephew that tells me he needs an AR-15 to hunt with. I told him that he needed to go to the firing range and learn how to shoot.

  • Morebeer
    August 7, 2019 at 10:08 a.m.

    Listen to GoHogs, Knuck, he has season ticket to UA games. Sees Hogs flattened all the time. Don’t have to hit’m behind the ear, little tap on the shoulder takes them down.

  • Seitan
    August 7, 2019 at 10:38 a.m.

    "How do I kill the 30-50 feral hogs that run into my yard within 3-4 mins while my small kids play?" Oh, wow. So he is just going to start shooting pigs & children?! Also, has he never heard of a fence?

  • UoABarefootPhdFICYMCA
    August 7, 2019 at 10:41 a.m.

    no difference between a neo-liberal and a hipster.
    look!
    they care more about feral hogs (maybe a synergy there?) than they do about children?
    and retiredDrugPusher is gonna call DHS lololololololol

  • Seitan
    August 7, 2019 at 10:55 a.m.

    UOA. Please seek help. YOu rarely make an cognitive sense. Plus, your president just said we have a mental health crises and he was looking right at you.

  • Jfish
    August 7, 2019 at 12:13 p.m.

    I am pretty sure that feral hogs are not much of a threat to children, however, I have never hunted them so an assault style rifle might be a good choice.

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