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Fast Facts, Photos and Maps about Feral Hogs

October 30, 2009
By: Sara Schafer, Farm Journal Media Business and Crops Editor
 
 

The following information is a Web Extra from the pages of Farm Journal. It corresponds with the article "Going Hog Wild” by Katie Humphreys. You can find the article on page 24 in the November 2009 issue.
 

United States Feral Swine Distribution Map

(click to enlarge)

Fast Facts about Feral Hogs

Feral hogs, a term that applies to Eurasian wild boars, wild hogs of domestic ancestry and a combination of the two, are non-native invasive pests.

 
Feral hogs typically travel in family groups called sounders, comprised of two sows and their young. Mature boars are usually solitary, only joining the herd to breed.
 
They are serious road hazards because they're active at night, dark in color and their eyes don't shine when lights hit them.
 
Feral hogs are such a nuisance to farmers, ranchers and others that there is a national conference solely devoted to the ugly beasts. 
 
Signs that feral hogs are in the area include damage to trees or utility poles, hair left on fences where hogs pass through and wallows and rooting areas where they forge for grubs and other insects. Their tracks look similar to deer, except their toes have more round or blunt tips and often show widely splayed dewclaws.
 
Pigs have been roaming in the wild since the early days of open range ranching. When confronted by war and economic hard times, settlers often had to abandon their homesteads on short notice, leaving their animals to fend for themselves. Overtime, free-ranging domesticated hogs became feral.
 
The feral hog population has been on the increase since the mid 1980s. According to data collected by Joe Corn, who coordinates feral swine mapping at the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, feral hogs were reported in 17 states in 1982. In 2004, 28 states. Today, 35 states report established feral hog populations and two are pending.
 
"The dramatic expansion is a real problem,” Corn says. The movement into northern states is primarily human-aided and then the population balloons.”
 
Females can reach sexual maturity at six to 10 months of age but only a small percentage is successfully bred that young.
 
Once you've shot or trapped a hog, there are also stipulations on if you can remove it and how. 
 
Currently there are no toxicants approved for use in the U.S. on feral hogs. Australia has developed a natural birth control for feral hogs that sterilizes them but a delivery system has yet to be figured out in the U.S. so wildlife won't eat the bait.
 
 
They're the No. 2 predator of livestock in Texas,” says Billy Higginbotham, professor and Extension wildlife and fisheries specialist, Texas AgriLife Extension Service.
 
As hogs became prized by hunters in the mid-1980s through 2005, there was a lot of indiscriminate stocking, Higginbotham says. Landowners and hunters would often trap, move and rerelease hogs to have something to hunt year-round. 
 
Supplemental feeding for game is common, but feral hogs, not the intended deer and turkey, are eating the lion share of the feed. 
 
Based on population models calculated for Texas populations, feral hogs have an estimated 7% rate of population growth annually, Higginbotham says.
 
Thousands of acres of corn have to be replanted in Texas every spring because feral hogs root up the seed, adds 
 
 
 

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - November 2009
RELATED TOPICS: Beef, Web Extra, Magazine Extras

 
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