New initiative is to address the growing population of feral hogs damaging West Bank levees

MARRERO, La. – The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-West (SLFPA-W) and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office (JPSO) today kicked off a joint program to reduce the number of feral hogs on the West Bank. SLFPA-W President Susan Maclay and Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand appeared together to explain the agreement between the agencies and to discuss the techniques JPSO will use to address the hog problem.

Feral hogs have caused extensive damage to the grass coverings on levees throughout the Authority’s jurisdiction on the West Bank, eating grass roots or digging up sections of the levee to feed on grub worms and other insect larvae. Grass is essential to levee integrity to protect from overtopping events. Additionally, levees without adequate grass are susceptible to erosion and scour. On average, one instance of hog damage costs the Authority approximately $4,000 in replacement materials.

Maclay stressed that controlling the feral hog population is directly related to the hurricane protection mission of the Authority. “SLFPA-West is committed to enhancing flood protection on the West Bank whenever and wherever possible. This cooperative program with Sheriff Normand’s office allows us to address the ongoing challenge that these feral hogs present to our levee maintenance efforts.”

Normand said his office has had similar experiences over the past two decades. “First nutria and then coyotes and now feral hogs. This is the type of situation we have seen over the years, and our deputies can make a difference in reducing the extent of this problem. Once you look at the pace of feral hog reproduction, you can see this is a serious problem.”

Maclay said the Authority has reviewed options for more than six months, and the agreement with the sheriff’s office is the best alternative. “Through this program, we hope the sheriff’s office will thin the number of feral hogs. We understand it’s virtually impossible to eradicate the problem completely. However, keeping their numbers down will have to be an ongoing part of levee maintenance going forward. In addition to this program, we’ll also be looking at other methods of abatement.”

Feral hogs can reproduce quickly. Sows are fertile at six months and can produce two litters per year. One litter can yield nearly 2,000 pigs in slightly more than two years. Without any natural predators in the region, these nocturnal feeders can roam freely and even be elusive to trapping efforts.

The budget for the trial program is $25,000, which should last a year based on field units of four deputies twice per week. In addition to the joint venture, Maclay said the Authority is investigating longer-term solutions, including the installation of electric fences.