Horses and Hogs
Superintendent Boyles also responded to letters from Wild Cumberland supporters regarding feral animals:
“The National Park Service is well aware of the potential impacts of excessive numbers of feral hogs. To combat this, we have had a program in place since 2001 utilizing NPS wildlife biologists and technicians to conduct year-round hog management on Cumberland. In addition to this, the park has an interagency agreement with the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services division to provide further assistance with hog management. Through 10 years of intensive control efforts, we have reduced the population significantly from the pre-2000
levels. Currently, evidence of hogs in the form of sightings, tracks, and rooting is minimal. Protection of the island’s sea turtle nests is paramount and we direct considerable effort to patrolling the beach during
the nesting season. As a result of our diligence, we have experienced only 4 partial depredations to nests from hogs on Cumberland since 2002. During this time, we recorded a total of 2,371 sea turtle nests.
Regarding threats to human safety, we log over 40,000 visitors annually and have never had an incident reported involving hogs since the establishment of the park. While eradication of the population is an ideal goal, it is one
that has never been achieved on any of the Georgia barrier islands. Hog populations fluctuate annually with water and food availability and their high reproductive capacity necessitates constant control efforts. The
credentials of our personnel and the success of our program are recognized by resource managers throughout Georgia and the U. S. We assure you that we will continue the current level of management with the goal of
maintaining the hog population at a level where disturbance to ecosystems and threats to sea turtle nests are minimal.
The National Park Service is [also] aware of the potential impacts of large herbivores. Annual surveys have been conducted since 1991 to monitor the status of the island’s horse herd. Currently, the population is estimated at 170 animals. It is the park’s biological opinion that the herd has stabilized to the available habitat on the
island. Evaluation of animal condition indices taken annually since 2003 reveals 95% of animals rated in the moderate to good category. Management of the horses will be challenging because of the high visibility of this
park’s herd and the wide ranging public perceptions and opinions regarding their treatment. We are currently pursuing additional research projects specific to horses on Cumberland and evaluating management techniques used
on other federal and state lands along the eastern U.S. coastline that have feral horse herds. Due to the controversial nature of this issue, the park would like to gather as much information as possible to make informed
decisions leading to the development of a management plan in the future.”