'Hog Wars' Closes Catoosa Wildlife Management Area

$1,000 Reward offered for vandals

Tuesday, August 02, 2011 - by Richard Simms
<i>This 10” spike was placed in a secondary road on Catoosa WMA.</i>
This 10” spike was placed in a secondary road on Catoosa WMA.
- photo by TWRA

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency announced Tuesday that the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area located in Cumberland, Morgan, and Fentress Counties will be closed to all public access effective Monday, August 8, 2011. TWRA officials believe this closure is necessary to ensure the safety of visitors using Catoosa WMA and agency employees working on the area.

Some have described the situation as "Hog Wars," after the Agency recently passed a sweeping policy to try and eliminate wild hogs across Tennessee, including Catoosa WMA.

Apparently an avid hog hunter, or hunters, are basically committing acts of terrorism on Catoosa WMA. TWRA officials believe this vandalism may be a reaction by a small group of individuals dissatisfied with the recent changes in the management of wild hog populations on Catoosa, and across the state.

Wildlife officials say wild hogs are becoming a nuisance across the state. They completely closed the hunting season, believing that some hunters were illegally transporting wild hogs from other states and releasing them in Tennessee. Public hunting for the animals is closed, however landowners with nuisance hogs can allow specially-permitted hunters to try and eliminate the animals with virtually no regulation. TWRA also committed to reducing wild hog populations on all state wildlife areas except for the Cherokee National Forest.

Hog Hunts have been historically held on Catoosa for decades. TWRA officials say since late June some people apparently unhappy with the new regulation and policy, have placed nails, spikes, and nail-boards in fields, secondary roads, and trails on the WMA.

According to Kirk Miles, TWRA Region 3 Wildlife Program Manager, as part of the overall strategy to address the increasing wild hog population on the Cumberland Plateau, an aggressive program to trap and remove wild hogs was initiated on Catoosa WMA in early June. Shortly thereafter, employees began finding nails and spikes in fields and along secondary roads accessing wild hog trap sites.

“Initially, we felt that we were able to effectively find and clean up the vandalized sites,” Miles said. “However, the problem has escalated to the point that we no longer feel the area is safe for public use.”

To date 13 tires have been damaged on TWRA trucks used on the WMA, ten of the tires had to be replaced. Four tractor tires have had flat tires repaired. One TWRA employee narrowly escaped serious injury when he stepped on a large nail.

According to Jim Lane, Catoosa WMA Manager, the vandalism has affected normal operations on Catoosa.

“We have found nails and spikes of different sizes, from two inch nails to ten inch spikes. We have also found homemade nail-boards designed to be driven into the ground,” Lane said. “They are not easy to find. Basically, we are forced to use metal detectors and cover large areas. It is labor intensive and takes a lot of time to find and clear vandalized locations.”

Fortunately, damage to non-agency vehicles has been confined to one individual who had two tires flattened after traveling on a secondary road. TWRA employees were able to assist the man who was traveling with his three children.

Although there are currently no hunting seasons open on Catoosa, the WMA is still heavily utilized by various users including horseback riders, hikers, and fishermen.

“We are very concerned with the immediate safety of current users on the WMA,” said Miles. “Also, squirrel and deer hunting seasons are just around the corner and that is when the WMA is most heavily utilized.”

Squirrel season opens on Aug. 27. Asked if the area could reopen before that date, Don King, TWRA Chief of Information said, "There's a good chance that could happen."

TWRA will use the closure period to find and remove as much of the dangerous material as possible. According to Miles, Catoosa WMA is approximately 80,000 acres of field and forest habitat. Cleanup efforts will focus on fields, secondary roads, and trails.

“We have a lot of ground to cover,” Miles said. “We will re-open Catoosa as soon as we can be reasonably assured it is safe. I am hopeful that we can reach that point sometime before our first deer hunt in October to allow small game and deer hunters the opportunity to hunt and scout the area.”

TWRA is offering a reward of $1,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of parties responsible for this vandalism.

Kind did not know if Agency has requested assistance from any other law enforcement agency or not. He did say there are no suspects at this time.

To provide any information relevant to this case please call 1-800-241-0767.

<i>This homemade nail-board, designed to be driven into the ground, was well hidden in a secondary road on Catoosa WMA. </i>
This homemade nail-board, designed to be driven into the ground, was well hidden in a secondary road on Catoosa WMA.
- Photo2 by TWRA

Workplace Violence Thwarted In Collegedale

A man was arrested in Collegedale on multiple charges. At approximately   2 p.m. on Friday, Collegedale Police were dispatched to 9404 Ooltewah-Industrial Drive on report of a disorder with a weapon. A caller to the Hamilton County 911 center stated a male party was on the way to Hawker Powersource to kill an employee. Hamilton County 911 advised the Collegedale ... (click for more)

Procedures Changed For Youth Waterfowl Draw At Bogota WMA, Thorny Cypress WMA

Youngsters hopeful to participate in youth-only waterfowl hunts at Bogota and Thorny Cypress Wildlife Management Areas in 2015 will have two options to apply for the events. The hunts, for youth ages 6-15, are scheduled for Jan. 31 and Feb. 7, 2015. A hand-held drawing will be held at the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Dyersburg work base (335 Menzies Road, Dyersburg, Tn. ... (click for more)

Linear Park Planned As Extension Of Walnut Street Bridge In Front Of Planned Boutique Hotel

A linear park that will be an extension of the Walnut Street Bridge public space is planned in front of a new boutique hotel at Walnut Street and Aquarium Way (Second Street). Mitch Patel of Vision Hospitality on Tuesday night told nearby residents that "the city pushed this idea of a linear park, and we agree that it is a great idea." He said the current situation in which ... (click for more)

Sharply-Divided City Council Approves Office Reorganization; Councilman Freeman Calls Move "Evil, Hellish"

A sharply-divided City Council on Tuesday voted 5-4 to completely reorganize the council office, leaving current staffers without a job down the road but with the option to reapply. Councilman Moses Freeman called the move "evil" and "hellish." He said, "We are punishing somebody on a personal level," though he said the office has been running smoothly. Saying the majority ... (click for more)

How To Reform The City Industrial Development Board - And Response (3)

My aims is to bring to the public’s attention the need for procedural changes that, if implemented, would significantly improve the information available the public, to the City Council and to the City Industrial Development Board about the verifiable benefits and costs of tax incentive financing structures and to make the entire process transparent. The public, the City ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: My October Garden

Hark! It is the first day of October and, as I make my monthly stroll through the garden, I find a growing numbers of leaves and acorns. Autumn leaves are beautiful while acorns are nuts, thus you will get the idea as we make our monthly awards: A PRETTY LEAF to Phil Hughes after the Minnesota Twins pitcher came within one inning of earning a $500,000 bonus this season. The deal ... (click for more)