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Feral Swine: Ripping and Rooting Their Way across America

Feral swine are not native to the United States. They are a cross between feral domestic swine introduced by Spanish explorers in the 1500s and the Eurasian boar. (Dana Johnson, USDA-APHIS)

Feral swine are not native to the United States. They are a cross between feral domestic swine introduced by Spanish explorers in the 1500s and the Eurasian boar. (Dana Johnson, USDA-APHIS)

Feral swine have been called the “rototillers” of nature. Their longs snouts and tusks allow them to rip and root their way across America in search of food.  Unfortunately, the path they leave behind impacts ranchers, farmers, land managers, conservationists, and suburbanites alike. April, Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month, is a great time to learn about this serious threat to both plant and animal health.

Found in at least 35 states and with a population of more than 5 million, feral swine cause approximately $1.5 billion in damages and control costs in the United States each year, with at least $800 million of this estimate due to direct agricultural damage. The damage caused by feral swine seems endless and includes the following:

  • Destroying native habitats, crops, lawns, and river banks through rooting and wallowing
  • Eating and destroying agricultural crops
  • Competing with native wildlife for food and other resources
  • Carrying or transmitting over 30 diseases and 37 parasites
  • Contaminating human food sources and water supplies
  • Destroying property and fences
  • Eating ground nesting birds and other small wildlife
  • Consuming livestock feed and supplements and fowling water sources
  • Colliding with vehicles

The APHIS Wildlife Services (WS) program collaborates with State, local and tribal officials to reduce the threats caused by feral swine to our country’s livestock, agriculture, native ecosystems, and human and animal health.  Our experts provide technical advice to landowners, state agencies and others, as well as direct management assistance for feral swine problems in more than 30 states.  This is often necessary because hunting alone cannot resolve feral swine conflicts with humans.  WS experts provide a 3-pronged approach that involves management, disease surveillance, and research.

For instance, WS is initiating a collaborative pilot project this spring in New Mexico to eradicate feral swine from certain areas in the State and protect threatened and endangered species and their habitats. The State’s unique geographic characteristics and the size and geographic separation of the State’s feral swine population make eradication still possible.  The effort will provide information and evidence to guide feral swine control efforts in many other states.

You can help be part of the solution: 1) Report feral swine activity to the proper wildlife and agriculture officials in your State; 2) Do not relocate feral swine without proper permits; and 3) if you raise domestic pigs, take adequate biosecurity measures to prevent accidental release of domestic pigs or the interaction between feral swine and domestic pigs.

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has declared April as Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month. Throughout the month, APHIS is posting a series of blog entries here and also share invasive plant pest and disease information through our twitter feed. APHIS and its federal and state partners are fighting to protect our communities, our public lands, and our agricultural resources from invasive species. But we can’t do it alone. Join the fight by visiting www.HungryPests.com.

24 Responses to “Feral Swine: Ripping and Rooting Their Way across America”

  1. Janet O'Dell says:

    I just wish they would be controlled in a more humane way than how it is currently done. I just sometimes wonder why humans believe they should have the right to decide the life and death of other mammals. Pigs are mammals after all and feel pain, terror, and everything a human feels and are just trying to survive like the rest of us mammals.

  2. Connie P. Helm says:

    Are these animals tasty?

    Can I get a hunting tag somewhere? Seems like the states affected would open up hunting and raise money. (maybe they do and I don’t know about it)

    I don’t believe we have them in Nevada yet.

  3. Jeffry Dolander says:

    invasive species are a huge problem. feral pigs are not part of our landscape and should be controlled. bacon and sausage come to mind.

  4. Ben Powell says:

    @Janet O’Dell… What about the inhumanity that wild pigs cause to ground nesting birds, domestic livestock, attacks on people and pets, spread of invasive plants, destruction of native plants, decimation of native seed banks, invasion of sea turtle and gopher tortoise nests, depredation of other native wildlife, depletion of longleaf pine seedlings, and disruption of soil micro-organisms and invertebrate communities?

    Controlling wild pigs by whatever means necessary = being humane to hundreds or even thousands of other species

    Controlling invasive species “humanely” is like trying to cure someone of cancer without killing cancer cells

  5. larry Dunkin says:

    Yes, these hogs are fine animals. In fact, they’re the state mascote in Arkansas! They should be protected just like the wild mustang and bold eagle.

    Go pig.Sueweee.

  6. Candy Ezzell says:

    These feral hogs carry over 38 (known) diseases that affect livestock, wildlife and humans. What is the problem with NOT trying to eradicate this problem that has already caused states multi-million $$$$ worth of damage? These hogs are fearless, and they are on the move into suburban areas, feeding on people’s pets.

  7. Howard Farmer says:

    Since this is such a problem, why is there not a program to reduce the population of Feral swine. There are programs for White tail deer and Alligators?

  8. John says:

    Janet, if Feral Hogs ripped up your lawn and garden or if you hit one with your car and you and your loved ones were badly hurt you would change your tune in a hurry.

  9. Janet O'Dell says:

    I simply stated “I just wish they would be controlled in a more humane way than how it is currently done.” So can someone tell me what is wrong with doing something in a humane manner are we not all humans? Put food out with birth control and guess what they stop producing babies and eventually go away. Pretty simple!! BE HUMAN and be kind to all walks of life – for every heart has a beat!

  10. Arnold says:

    Be careful. Would/how would non-target species be affected by bc baits? Can you target the bait to only be consumed by the target species (feral swinee)? Wounldn’t that method require an EIS to determine if non-target species were affected and how affected? Considering the broad disperal of of the invasive species a comprehensive EIS would probably take years because of the non-target species in different areas. In the mean time the feral swine population would continue to increase (expodentially?) and the damage and lives lost due to them would also increase. Isn’t there a quote to the effect, of — If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

  11. Debbie says:

    For every person who ever read Charolotte’s Web it is hard to think about population control of pigs. However, the situation we have found ourselves in is too many pigs and the destruction that comes with a population that is out of control. Reading the article above clearly outlines the issues that landowners, farmers, ranchers and producers are facing. I hear landowners talking about this issue all the time and their struggle to address it. No one wants to be “inhumane” to any animal but overpopulation and spread of any invasive species results in far greater consequences for nature.

  12. Janet O'Dell says:

    http://blog.chron.com/shannontompkins/2011/02/poisoning-pigs-the-final-solution/
    It’s legal to kill feral hogs at any time – day or night – in any number. They can be shot. They can even be shot from helicopters. They can be trapped. They can be snared. They can be hunted using dogs. Some people stab them. Heck, they can be beaten to death with a baseball bat if that’s what someone wants to do.
    Okay, how humane is that? There are no limits what humans can do to destroy pigs – which are EXTREMELY intelligent mammals. So I still do not understanding why humans call pigs the invasive species as it is actually humans that have invaded all space for animals and continue to do so at an alarming rate.
    No one will EVER convince me that MAN is GOD and can take or give life at will without someday paying a price for this kind of behavior.

  13. John says:

    I shot two yesterday and 15 last week,they were tearing up the farmers crop!!

  14. Elvis says:

    They are a NON-NATIVE species of swine that have disrupted the environment for native species. I don’t know why there is compassion for this pest. Do you ever kill mosquitos when they attack you? if yes, well you’ve killed a poor defenseless animal! monsters! My point is that just like every other pest there has to be some type of control. Thank you!

  15. Elvis says:

    FYI i’m going pig hunting this weekend, i bought my tags for $23 bucks at wal-mart. Thank you Wal-Mart.

  16. Randy says:

    Sows will have about 2.2 litters per year and begin breeding at something like 8 months of age. They average around 7 pigs per litter. To keep a population at its current number you must kill approximately 75% per year to halt the population from continuing to increase. To reduce the population you need to kill an even higher percentage. Baits are somewhat ineffective since they move fairly regular and may not return to an area for weeks.

  17. Janet O'Dell says:

    Look at the pigs in the picture they are scared. As I will state over and over do it humanely. Too bad pigs can’t shoot back.

  18. Todd says:

    I live in Arizona and was wondering if someone out there would allow my son and I access on their land to harvest a few of these animals. Will travel to New Mexico as well. We will respect the land and hope to harvest a pig in a humane way. One shoot. Appreciate any help we can get.

  19. Rebecca [USDA Moderator] says:

    Thank you all for these thoughtful comments regarding feral swine issues in the US. Here is a link to an informative USDA brochure on feral swine. It presents information on why it is important that we all work together to report and address feral swine. This next link provides information on an upcoming opportunity provided by APHIS to comment on a national approach to feral swine damage management.

    @Connie – In FY2012, Wildlife Services lethally removed 28,498 feral swine from 26 States, including Nevada. Though the number of feral swine in Nevada is relatively low compared to other States, experts are starting to see feral swine damage to rangeland and riparian areas in Humboldt, Lincoln, and Clark Counties. In Nevada, feral swine are classified as estray livestock (animals which do not have a record of proof of ownership) and are owned by the Nevada Department of Agriculture. There is no legal hunting season for feral swine in Nevada so the “taking” of feral swine is illegal unless authorized by the Nevada Department of Agriculture. For a greater understanding of “estray animals”, here’s is a link to the specific Nevada Revised Statute (NRS 569) that governs estray animals.

    @Howard – On May 23, 2013, APHIS’ Wildlife Services and Veterinary Services programs will host a scoping meeting to provide more information about a national approach to feral swine damage management and take comments from stakeholders. Anyone who is unable to attend in person can join the meeting via a live Webcast. Additional meeting information is available on the Wildlife Services’ website.

  20. Elvis says:

    Janet O’dell, I took your advise. I looked at the picture of the pisgs posted on this page… all i see is bacon.

  21. Scott says:

    The one thing these “animal rights” fanatics seem unable to understand is that humans ARE animals! We are animals, ourselves–predatory, omnivorous animals! So we have the same rights that all other predatory, omnivorous animals have! People who consider the other animals (non-homo-sapien species)to be greater than humans are hypocrites! They feel we humans should be destroyed–but they’re never willing to destroy themselves! So why don’t these PETA freaks set a good example, and commit suicide?

  22. drew says:

    If you ask me providing hunters with information about recent activity and where abouts would have an impact. I love to hunt, but I don’t have the time to spend days just finding the darn things. I would be happy to spend every weekend in eastern new Mexico if I knew where to start even

  23. Dell Servisi says:

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  24. Jerry Wayne says:

    01/26/14
    Was shocked to see a very large feral hog about 400#s
    by highway 9 near hwy 10 – just standing there looking at
    us driving by in Perry County. I called an AGFC office
    and reported citing this huge animal on Monday…Hitting an animal that size could get someone killed. I had a 9MM with me but I don’t think it would do anything but tick him off !!!

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