John's Journal...

Feral Hogs – Here They Come

How Bad Is the Problem?

Click to enlargeEditor's Note: You may find hogs the next major wildlife threat to farmers.
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 surprise you.

 “Nationwide, feral hogs are a growing problem,” Ditchkoff reports. “The most-serious issue with feral hogs is currently in the Southeast, although the fClick to enlargeeral-hog 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 U.S.”
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 Click to enlargeopen 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 StClick to enlargeates 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


Check back each day this week for more about "Feral Hogs - Here They Come"

Day 1: How Bad Is the Problem?
Day 2: How to Control the Wild Hog and Protect Your Land
Day 3: Wild Hogs Are Coming to a Town Near You
Day 4: Hard Work for Wild Hogs
Day 5: Why the Big Hogs?



Entry 426, Day 1