• Outdoors Outdoors

Feral swine populations wreak havoc across US, and they're not slowing down: 'Hunting doesn't take enough of these animals'

Many states, such as Florida, have declared open season on their hog populations.

Many states, such as Florida, have declared open season on their hog populations.

Photo Credit: iStock

Concern is growing as a horde of over 6 million feral swine has wreaked havoc in the United States, causing massive environmental and economic damage. 

What's happening?

Wild pigs, which are invasive to the country, have long been a problem in Florida and Texas, but they are bringing their chaos to new areas with populations in 35 states. This species, which has been in the U.S. since 1500, has violently inserted itself into native ecosystems and disrupted residential and agricultural areas, as the Orlando Sentinel reported.

The Department of Agriculture estimates that wild pigs have done $2.5 billion in damage to American agriculture; as their population swells and wilderness shrinks, they are forced into more populated areas.

According to Inside Climate News, some project that Florida, the tip of the spear in the feral hog conundrum, will lose proportions of rural land equal to the size of Connecticut by 2070. This comes as a result of rampant development and growth.

Authorities are calling this explosion in population and contact the "feral swine bomb." 

Why is the swine bomb important?

Aside from the economic damage they cause, feral hogs can be dangerous to humans and have already done significant damage to the native ecosystems they have invaded. Feral swine can negatively impact soil and water quality, and they compete with and destroy native flora and fauna, per the Mississippi State University Extension Service and USDA.

They also pose some direct threat to humans. Attacks are considered rare, according to the Sentinel, but hogs that feel threatened or cornered by humans are known to show aggression. They are also more likely to attack humans whom they associate with food, and as they are forced into more densely populated areas, attacks seem likely to increase.

What's being done about feral hogs?

Several government, private, and academic institutions are invested in controlling the feral hog population.

Many states, such as Florida, have declared open season on their hog populations, per the Sentinel. The animals can be hunted there without a license and in any season, and HeliBacon has opened in Texas, inviting consumers to hunt swine from helicopters.

Some chefs across the country have even started serving them up to adventurous diners, simultaneously helping tackle food waste and invasive species.

Others advocate relocation and consider capture and sterilization to be the most effective method of controlling the population. Some researchers are working on contraceptives, but they have not yet been made available.

"Hunting doesn't take enough of these animals in any given year to keep populations low," one hunter quoted by the Sentinel said. The hogs reproduce at such a rate that the combined efforts of humans and natural predators have failed to keep their population in check.

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