September 20, 2021

Calling the Hogs


Why it matters: The media spotlight on the recent success of the Arkansas Razorbacks football team provides an opportunity to discuss another kind of hog, the feral kind. Responsible for billions of dollars in damages and capable of spreading diseases to humans, livestock, and wildlife, feral swine are one of the most prolific invasive species in the United States. With a tremendous reproductive potential that rivals only their ability to cause damage, several states and the USDA have devoted millions to their eradication. As hunters head out for fall hunting seasons, encounters with feral swine are likely to occur in regions where they persist. Hunters should understand regulations associated with feral swine hunting and remain vigilant for this potentially aggressive species.

College football fans from the lower half of the Midwest may recognize an old, familiar face causing some headaches in the region. After struggling for a few years, it appears that the Arkansas Razorbacks (colloquially known as the “Hogs”) are on their way back! However, as we head into the fall hunting seasons, schools in the SEC West aren’t the only ones who should be aware of hogs. As hunters spend more time in the field, interactions with feral swine (also referred to as wild pigs, wild hogs, wild boar, and a variety of other names) are likely to become more common.

Thought to have been brought to North America as early at the 15th century, non-native feral swine are now found in 20 states. Each year, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that feral swine are responsible for nearly $1.5 billion in property damage. In response, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has received millions in funds to support eradication efforts.

In addition to the property damage, feral swine can cause negative impacts for many game species whose habitat is altered and even destroyed by the feeding habits of the species. Further, feral swine are vectors for many diseases, including Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome, which can threaten domestic swine populations. Feral swine also pose threats to humans in their ability to transmit diseases like hepatitis E, tuberculosis, leptospirosis, swine brucellosis and others.

As mentioned, feral swine are a unique case study in that, unlike for game species, management efforts focus on the eradication and prevention of the species. Because of this, several states have introduced legislation that would greatly increase the penalties for those who try to transport live feral swine for intentional release in new areas. While sportsmen and women in several states have come to enjoy opportunities to pursue this unique quarry, regulations vary widely across the current range of the species. Hunters should check with their state fish and wildlife agency regarding the regulations associated with hunting feral swine before heading into the field.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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