Legislation boosting criminal penalties for those who knowingly release feral hogs into the wild is heading to the Missouri Senate, after receiving final House approval on Thursday. The bipartisan vote was 108-38.
House Bill 508 is sponsored by State Rep. Don Rone (R-Portageville), who chairs the Missouri House Agriculture Policy Committee. State Rep. Tracy McCreery (D-Olivette), the committee’s ranking Democrat, urged her colleagues to vote for the bill.
“When you have groups like the (Missouri) Farm Bureau and the (Missouri) Department of Conservation and soybeans and corn all working together and saying let’s give this a try. Let’s do everything we can do to help eradicate an invasive species,” McCreery says.
The Sierra Club also backs the bill.
Feral hogs are a major issue across southern Missouri, especially in and near the Mark Twain National Forest. Governor Parson has been warning that feral hogs are a danger to the state and pose serious safety risks to residents.
State Rep. Scott Cupps (R-Cassville), who voted for the bill, tells colleagues that it will be tweaked in the Senate to address concerns from some House members.
“There is an agreement to change the first offense from a felony to a misdemeanor. So the first offense will be a misdemeanor and then upon a second offense, it will be a (class E) felony,” says Cupps, who chairs the House subcommittee on appropriations for Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources.
The bill is also backed by the Missouri Parks Association (MPA), which says some residents are transporting and releasing feral hogs on public land. MPA says feral hogs are destroying Missouri’s native ecosystems, and have damaged the Taum Sauk, Roaring River and St. Francois state parks.
Governor Parson met in late March in Jefferson City with U.S. Rep. Jason Smith (R-Salem), Missouri Department of Conservation Director Sara Parker-Pauley, the United States Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Forest Service and state lawmakers like State Sen. Jason Bean (R-Holcomb), about the feral hog issue.
Congressman Smith, who represents 30 southern Missouri counties, says the majority of the feral hogs in Missouri are in his 8th Congressional District.
“We hope to have them eradicated one day, they’re awful. The best feral hog is a dead feral hog,” Smith told Missourinet in late March.
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