Feral Hogs – Here They Come
How Bad Is the Problem?
Note: You may find hogs the next major wildlife threat
According to Dr. Steve Ditchkoff, associate professor
of wildlife at Auburn
University, "If you don't have 'em, you'll get
'em. Once you get 'em, more
than likely, you can't get rid of 'em. As soon as you
think you're rid of
'em, they will return." Dr. Ditchkoff headed-up
the first national
conference on wild pigs in Mobile, Alabama, in May,
2006, with 32 U.S. and
Australian researchers attending. Their findings may
“Nationwide, feral hogs are a growing problem,”
Ditchkoff reports. “The most-serious issue with
feral hogs is currently in the Southeast, although the
problem is just as bad in California and Hawaii. In
the Midwest, feral-hog problems are in their infancy.
But researchers are predicting that before long, the
Midwest, which is the Bread Basket of America, will
have as severe a feral-hog problem as the southeastern
Ditchkoff explains that feral hogs compete with native
wildlife for food and often monopolize acorn and soft-mast
crops. Feral hogs also eat turtles, reptiles and amphibians
– often including endangered toads and lizards.
Feral hogs even have had a devastating impact on sea
turtle nests. Too, at Florida’s Eglin Air Force
Base (EAFB), which contains some of the largest tracts
of the 1% of Florida’s seepage slopes that remain,
feral swine damage has threatened this wetland habitat.
Researchers from the USDA and Eglin Natural Resources
have found that swine damage to EAFB’s seepage
slopes closed to hunting averaged 25%, over twice the
10.9% damage in parts open
to hunting, with the combined pig damage to both types
of areas costing $5.3 million in 2-years time. In some
parts of Texas, landowners consider wild hogs as the
second-worst predator, after the coyote, on newborn
livestock. Feral hogs also root-up and destroy crops
and dirt roads.
“The feral-hog population is creating more damage
to the environment and farm lands than we realize,”
Ditchkoff says. “Researchers also have a huge
growing concern about feral hogs spreading disease to
domestic swine. Feral hogs can destroy complete ecosystems.
For instance, in Hawaii, where fresh water is a very-precious
commodity, feral hogs can alter water flow and nutrient
cycling to disrupt the quality of the water, costing
Hawaii billions each year.” Ditchkoff perceives
the biggest difficulty in the continental United States
as the crop damage inflicted by feral hogs in the Midwest.
“I don’t believe we have a full grasp yet
of how destructive the growing feral-hog population
will be on nutrient cycling, water quality and direct
predation on individual species. In Hawaii, hogs actually
have caused the extinction of certain species, and this
potential exists here on the mainland.”
The reproductive potential of feral hogs causes their
major difficulty. A sow can have two litters each year
of four to six pigs or as many as three litters in 14
months, which means one sow may produce as many as 12-18
piglets in that time. California, for example, now has
an estimated 64,000 to 100,000 wild pigs. Too, Ditchkoff
mentions that feral hogs can carry brucellosis, but
well-cooked pork generally takes care of that problem.
However, he recommends you wear rubber gloves whenever
butchering or handling feral hogs.
Tomorrow: How to Control the
Wild Hog and Protect Your Land