Feral Hogs – Root out the Problem

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Wild Hogs may have been a funny movie, but there isn’t anything funny about real wild hogs. The damage these animals do to agriculture, property, and livestock via diseases is dead serious. In the 1980’s, wild hogs were in about 15 states, today that number has more than doubled with about 35 states now dealing with the problem.

Originally brought from Eurasia for hunting and food, they are prolific breeders and reservoirs for disease. Escaped domestic swine can become feral in a very short time. One misconception is that it is too cold in northern states for them to become established. That notion is completely false. These pigs become acclimated very quickly. Population growth can be very rapid, as they reach breeding age at 6-8 months, have 4-12 piglets each time, and have gestation period of only about 4 months.

Travelling at night in groups, wild hogs can completely destroy a pasture in no time. It is estimated that they cause about $1.5 billion in crop damage each year. They eat just about anything, including grain, roots, meat, and waterfowl eggs. Endangered species like sage grouse really have problems in wild pig areas.

Feral hogs can spread diseases like brucellosis, tuberculosis, pseudorabies, and be a reservoir for African Swine Fever (ASF). All of these diseases have been kept out of or eliminated from Washington state and are of high concern to the livestock industry. Any reintroduction here would cost our producers millions of dollars in testing alone.

In addition, wild hogs carry a high risk of carrying or spreading vesicular diseases, which could be devastating to the state and the nation. ASF is wreaking havoc across Europe and Asia and USDA is working hard to keep it out of the USA.

The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) is not aware of any permanent herds in Washington state, though they have removed some in the Moses Lake area that seem to be domestic pigs that escaped or were intentionally released. Piglets are cute when they are small, but grow fast and can be very aggressive. Some people don’t want them after they get too big so take them out and drop them off. Intentional release is against the law.

Report any sightings to WSDA, or to USDA so they can investigate and eliminate. USDA Wildlife Services takes these reports very seriously and may put out bait and cameras to get photographs of the pigs. If it is determined they are in the area, professional hunters will be deployed to remove them.

By Dr. Ben Smith, Field Veterinarian, Washington State Department of Agriculture


Posted August 23, 2109