To Compete with Video Games and Combat Budget Deficits, Illinois will Introduce Wild Hogs in Effort to Generate More Revenue From Hunters

Illinois is a Midwestern state known for its diverse landscapes, including forests, wetlands, prairies, and farmland. These landscapes offer ample opportunities for hunting a variety of game species. From deer and wild turkey to waterfowl and upland birds, Illinois has something to offer for hunters of all levels of experience and interests. However, there is one notable species missing from this list: wild hogs. In a plan recently unveiled by the Illinois Department of Fish & Wildlife (IDFW), officials would like to introduce wild hogs, and open up a year-long season for hunting in an effort to boost license sales and outdoor recreation tourism for the state.

Hogs Mean Money

Feral hogs, which are not native to North America, were brought over by European settlers in the 1500s and 1600s. Today, they can be found in 35 states and because they can cause damage to crops and the environment, they are also a popular target for hunters. This popularity is an attraction that the IDFW hopes to leverage in their plan to introduce wild hogs to the state.

Another incentive? Increased license sales and, as a result, revenue. According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), license sales generated more than $17.3 million in revenue for the state in the fiscal year 2020. Of this revenue, approximately $10.7 million was generated through the sale of hunting licenses and permits. These funds are used to support a wide range of conservation initiatives in Illinois, including wildlife management, habitat restoration, and outdoor recreation. Billy Tusks, an IDFW official in charge of the wild hogs relocation initiative, states that “These days, we’re competing with Fortnite, we’re competing with Netflix and TikTok. We’ve looked for many ways to reinvigorate the public’s interest in hunting and wild hogs as a target species were one of the best ways to do that.”

The numbers don’t lie. Hog hunting can be lucrative for a state’s economy. Looking at other examples across the country, states like Texas generate an estimated $14 billion annually from hunting activities. This includes revenue from hunting license sales, guide services, equipment sales, and other related activities.

Although there are a number of pros and cons that have been weighed by officials, the financial upside is considered the main benefit for Illinois. The state has struggled with a budget deficit for many years, with expenses consistently outpacing revenues. These challenges have led to a growing level of debt, which has further strained the state’s finances.

The Proposal

The in-depth proposal to introduce wild hogs as a way to invigorate Illinois’ recreation economy is hinged on partnership with states where the wild hog population is abundant, such as Texas and Oklahoma. Hogs from those partnering states will be captured (using sophisticated traps like this one by Big Pig Trap) and airlifted to the Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois, where the species is expected to thrive. Officials are still waiting to receive permits enabling the Illinois National Guard to airlift and drop an estimated 2000 captured hogs in 10 pre designated areas containing prime wild hog habitat.

IDFW official Billy Tusks agrees that this is likely the most cost-effective method, since the reproductive cycles of hogs are among the most efficient of any species in North America. Tusks says, “There’s a joke among wildlife biologists:  ‘The average sow gives birth to eight piglets, and nine of them will survive.’ “It’s estimated that after an initial batch of wild hogs are introduced, the population should begin to follow a natural reproduction cycle, and will be able to generate a strong, self-sustaining population.

Other States Taking Note

Other states, like Rhode Island and Connecticut, will be closely monitoring the success of Illinois’ wild hog introduction program to see if it would make sense to adopt a similar program. These two states would benefit greatly from an increase in hunting license revenue, since they regularly have the least hunting engagement of all the states in the US.

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Special thanks to Big Pig Trap for playing along with the fun.

Read last year’s satire article: “State of Missouri Reintroduces Wild Wolves”