Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge joins with Special Operations Wounded Warriors for a great hunt
Feral pigs are widely considered a nuisance species. The wild hogs cause an estimated $1.5 billion in property damage every year all over the United States on both public and private lands, according to the Mississippi State University Center for Resolving Human-Wildlife Conflicts. They are an invasive species that can disrupt entire food chains.
“They’re really bad for the ecosystem,” said Craig Sasser, refuge manager at Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge in South Carolina. “They out-compete everything in the swamp. They destroy roads and dikes, and they do a lot of damage to nearby farms. The refuge has developed a comprehensive management plan that includes public hunting, trapping, and enclosures to keep the impacts from feral pigs to a minimum.”
When confronted, they can be vicious creatures who will stop at nothing to escape. Fortunately, they are no match for U.S. Special Forces wounded warriors turned hog hunters. In late February, a dozen Special Forces veterans went into the swamps at Waccamaw NWR. When they were done, they had a dozen confirmed kills of feral hogs: a one-to-one success rate.
The hunt was sponsored and organized by Special Operations Wounded Warriors (SOWW) in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the South Carolina Department of Natural Recourses (SCDNR) and private landowners. SOWW was founded in 2012 to provide outdoor experiences to a select group of active duty and veteran U.S. Military Special Operations Force who have been wounded in battle, and received the prestigious Purple Heart Medal. SOWW events have included golf tournaments, fishing tournaments and hunts for turkeys, ducks, bear, and pheasant. “We are very thankful of the opportunity that Craig Sasser and our partners at U.S. Fish and Service provided our 12 Wounded Warriors,” said Joel Pellicci, vice president of SOWW. “Being provided access to the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge in conjunction with the welcome hospitality they provided us was an incredible opportunity.”
“I really thought my hunting days were over due to my amputation until SOWW and people I met at the refuge showed me that I still could do it. My love for the outdoors was lost until now. I am back!” said Andrew, a medically retired Green Beret.
Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge is 35,000 acres in size and located in South Carolina’s Low County, west of Myrtle Beach. It is home to many species such as federally endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers, swallow-tailed kites, black bears, osprey, woodstorks, wood ducks, wild turkey and white ibis, which can be threatened by the habitat destruction that the feral hogs bring. “The coolest part to me,” said Sasser, “was working with a veteran who was partially paralyzed who had a specialized wheelchair fitted with rubber tracks, that made it an all-terrain vehicle like a tank. We were able to take him to a specialized refuge stand that was designed to be user-friendly for people who are mobility-impaired.
SOWW provided the hunter with a specialized rifle that he was able to use with one hand. It was a very special hunt for this veteran because he was reunited with one of his friends from his own squad who is also a disabled veteran.
“He was very excited and said it was the first time he’d been hunting since his injury.” The hunt was supported by a large group of volunteers from SOWW, the Service and SCDNR. The volunteers cleaned the hogs and the meat was divided up among the wounded warriors.
Phil Kloer, Public affairs specialist
Philip_kloer@fws.gov, (404) 679-7299