FORT SMITH — Many hunters have walked out of the woods angry after discovering the theft of a game camera set on their land. A current camera theft problem on Fort Chaffee Maneuver Training Center may have much further-reaching implications than hard feelings, however.
The Army National Guard Installation and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission are asking for any help the public can offer in locating game cameras intended to help remove feral hogs on the property.
“It’s kind of a double blow to them,” said Kevin Lynch, Regional Wildlife Supervisor for the AGFC. “It’s set back feral hog trapping efforts which are a major concern on Chaffee, and these cameras are very expensive to replace.”
The cameras are a critical component to trapping hogs in large groups on the installation. They monitor large corral traps and notify the land manager when feral hogs are in the traps and taking the bait. Managers then use the camera to ensure they are capturing large groups at once to prevent educating any hogs that escape and making them more difficult to trap in the future.
In the past, entire public use compartments on the base were closed whenever a hog-trapping operation was underway on the base. The lower disturbance rate made trapping more efficient. In an effort to give the public as many hunting opportunities as possible, the military installation recently decided to allow hunters in those compartments even when hog-trapping efforts were in place.
“This is a pretty big deal,” said Kevin Lynch, Regional Wildlife Supervisor for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. “Military installations that allow this sort of access to the public for hunting are actually pretty rare, and to have Ft. Chaffee open things up even more for hunters is a great example of how involved in the community they are. But problems like this can really put them in the position of having to take away those opportunities.”
Fort Chaffee has very strict instructions on their purpose. Military training and needs are first and foremost among their missions. Secondary to that purpose, the base is responsible for maintaining the natural resources on the property. Third on this list is recreation opportunities for the public. If military needs or hog-trapping to protect the resources on the property cannot be completed in harmony with hunting access, that access may become scaled back or eliminated.
“It’s an extremely popular hunting area in this part of the state, and we’ve always had a good relationship to make access possible,” Lynch said. “But if this sort of thing continues, we may all have to suffer the consequences in the form of less access to an excellent hunting area.”