September 16, 2019

Missouri: New Regulations Would Allow Landowners to Use Thermal/Night Vision Optics

Contact: Kent Keene, Lower Midwestern States Coordinator

After receiving initial approval from the Missouri Conservation Commission, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is currently accepting public comments regarding proposed regulation changes designed to help landowners control nuisance wildlife and invasive species. Specifically, the proposed regulation changes would allow both landowners and their representatives, after receiving written permission from a Missouri conservation agent, to employ the use of thermal or night vision optics to protect livestock and property from species like coyotes and feral hogs. 

Under current regulations, it is illegal to possess thermal imaging or night vision equipment while also in possession of a firearm, bow, or other object that is used to harvest wildlife, with the exception of landowners who are using this equipment to control feral hogs on their own property. 

Feral hogs represent a serious threat to Missouri landowners due to the destructive capabilities of this highly invasive species. In the United States, feral hogs caused over $1 billion in property damage annually. Additionally, feral hogs carry diseases that threaten livestock populations. Finally, feral hogs can be very destructive for native plant communities and harm native wildlife populations, like deer and turkey, through predation and competition for resources. Unlike many wildlife species, wildlife management agencies often favor feral hog eradication over population management. To accomplish this, the Missouri Department of Conservation has banned feral hog hunting on state-owned lands to favor highly targeted trapping efforts designed to remove entire groups of hogs. However, more than 90% of property in Missouri is privately owned and hunting remains legal on these private lands.

New technologies, such as thermal and night vision imagery, allow landowners to protect their property with increased efficiency. To allow landowners the opportunity to protect their property without sacrificing the ability of conservation agents to enforce laws designed protect Missouri’s wildlife, these new regulations would require written permission be obtained before thermal or night vision optics may be used to harvest nuisance or invasive species. 

Those who are interested in learning more or providing comments on the proposed changes may do so here. The public comment period will remain open through October 31, 2019. 

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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