The biggest threat from “outside agitators” these days in Mississippi comes from four-legged, long-snouted, two-tusked creatures with voracious appetites and no natural foes.

Yes, non-native wild hogs are a serious danger to the state’s leading industry, agriculture. The feral pigs cause more than $66 million in property damage annually in the state, according to the Mississippi State Extension Service.

Traveling in large groups called “sounders,” they are wily, destructive beasts. They can quickly level acres of row crops, devour fawns and the young of other native animals and are adept at avoiding capture.

And the rapidly reproducing hogs continue to expand throughout Mississippi, being found in all 82 counties today versus just 23 counties in 1988, the Extension Service says.

So it makes sense for Commissioner of Agriculture Andy Gipson to take on the issue, even if it’s part of the incumbent’s election pitch. He announced at the Neshoba County Fair last week the “Commissioner’s Wild Hog Challenge.”

“We don’t need to talk about it anymore; we need to kill some hogs!” the Republican declared.

Hunters are encouraged to report hogs they harvest in August and September to the Agriculture Department, which has a website set up for submitting kills. State law allows the hunting of the nuisance animals year-round, day or night, with no weapon restrictions on private land. Hunters who want to enter the commissioner’s competition must report when and where they hunted the pig, along with sending a photograph and other details.

Each participant will be entered into a drawing for a $6,000 wild hog trapping system, and the slayer of the heaviest hog will earn his or her choice of two rifles. Winners will be announced at the state fair in October.

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As of early Tuesday, the state reported 367 wild hogs harvested from eight counties.

Of course, the challenge is more a publicity stunt than a practical attempt to lower the hog population.

The Mississippi State Extension Service advises “sport hunting alone is not nearly as effective as trapping and killing” wild hogs, and the Agriculture Department says “the purpose of the challenge is to raise awareness regarding these nuisance animals and their huge negative impact on agriculture.”

But hunting more hogs certainly won’t hurt. Considering the vast numbers of native animals that mankind has overhunted to the point of extinction without even trying to do so, you figure it would work well with an intentional effort against a non-native species.

With the limited hunting restrictions, it can be a fun diversion and challenge for Mississippi hunters waiting for deer season, while at the same time addressing a needed public policy goal.

Thus, we join with Gibson’s sentiments and say to hunters, “Go forth and make bacon.”

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