The expansive size of feral pig herds in the US is causing a variety of concerns all over the land. Rod Bain reports. Have you seen that new show, hogs gone wild? It documents exterminators addressing a growing pest problem in the US. And no, it’s not insect, rodent or snake related. It has to do with feral hogs…”one of the issues with feral pigs is their high reproductive potential.
They mature very young, they can have three litters within a 12, 13, 14 month period, and each of those litters can be composed, on average, six to eight piglets. So, the feral pig population can double anywhere from six months to a year.” That’s Chris DePerno with North Carolina State Extension. And he says the problem with feral pigs is not just the rapid reproduction, but they are generalist, adapting to and living in just about any climate or region…”as long as they have water, cover and food, feral pigs are extremely adaptable.”
And not only that, feral pigs are omnivores, rooting up agricultural fields to forage for food as well as nesting grounds for birds and sea turtles. And as such…”they are exposed to a lot of different pathogens.” Increasing the risk of pathogens and parasite such as toxoplasma gondii and trichinella, passing from feral pigs to animals like those in domestic hog populations and even humans. “The importance of feral pigs as sources of infection to humans and domestic swine has increased. I do believe that future research is necessary to really evaluate the risk of transmission between feral pigs and these transitional organic, and the domestic pig farms. And of course, human health.”
And DePerno says there are several problems when it comes to control of the animal…”some of the issues that we’re seeing around the country are more related to people relocating this exotic animal.” And in particular, game hunting operations relocating feral pigs from the southeast to other parts of the nation…”and this has accelerated this natural dispersal movement that we have seen. And I know USDA and SQUIDIS and some of these other groups are monitoring the feral pig expansion throughout the country.”
DePerno adds that feral pigs have no real natural predators to help curb population…”and when you think about feral pigs with their very, very high reproductive potential, and they’re long lived, individuals that are 10, 12, 14 years old, that are pregnant having multiple litters a year; that’s a high reproductive potential. Hunting alone is not going to do this. A lot of areas are doing trap, and euthanasia, to try to get a handle on this invasive species, because it’s very destructive.”