What can grow five feet long, up to 400 pounds and is one of the most destructive invasive species in the U.S.?
Wild hogs are the correct answer! Wild hogs also called feral swine go by many names but are the same species as domesticated pigs found on farms.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, feral hogs cause approximately $2.5 billion in agricultural damages each year.
Since their introduction to the U.S. in the 1500’s, the feral swine population have expanded across more than three quarters of the country. According to the Department of Agriculture, their population has grown to more than 9 million.
The wild animal has expanded westward and northward, with states like California, Hawaii, and Michigan reporting a fairly large feral hog populations.
Which states are most impacted by wild hogs?
Florida, Georgia and Texas have the most feral hog reports in the U.S, according to data from the University of Georgia Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health.
In 2023 alone, Texas had 2,425 feral hog spotting’s, followed by 1,377 in Georgia.
Fifteen states had no feral hog spotting’s this year.
Feral hogs disrupt native species
The animal’s range has expanded more westward and northward over time, with at least 35 states reporting feral swine presence. States like California, Hawaii, and Michigan now have relatively large feral hog populations.
Nearly 300 native plant and animal species in the U.S. are in rapid decline because of feral swine, and many of the species are already at risk, according to Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
The swine also carry at least 40 parasites, 30 bacterial and viral illnesses, and can infect humans, livestock and other animals with diseases like brucellosis and tuberculosis.
Managing the feral hog problem
In some states, total elimination of feral hogs is the end goal for conservationists.
The Missouri Feral Hog Elimination Partnership killed 9,857 feral hogs in 2021, bringing the total number of hogs killed since 2016 to more than 54,000.
Public hunting is one of the most popular mitigation tactics of wild hogs and has become a common recreational activity. But hogs often relocate in response to pressures of hunting. Fencing and trapping can be more effective in mitigating wild hog populations, but require more upkeep and investment, according to Captain Experiences.
Invasive species and climate change: A perfect match? These animals thrive amid global warming.
Sara Karnes of the Springfield- News Leader contributed to this reporting.