Feral Hog: Sus Scrofa
Feral pigs, also known as Sus scrofa, are the same species as farm pigs. Pigs that have escaped or been released into the wild are known as feral swine. Wild boar, wild hog, razorback, piney woods rooter, and Russian or Eurasian boar are some of the feral swine names. They are a dangerous, destructive, and invasive species, regardless of their name.
Early explorers and settlers brought feral swine to the United States as a source of food in the 1500s. Following that, there were several more introductions. This invasive species’ geographic range is rapidly expanding, and its population is growing across the country. 1Go To Source aphis.usda.gov -“Feral Swine-Managing an Invasive Species”
Learn More: Nuisance Animals In Your Neighborhood
Description Of Wild Pigs
Wild pigs are distinguishable by their small eyes, large triangular ears, and a long snout that ends in a large, round nose. Their thick coat of coarse, bristly hair, which they can erect along their spine, has earned them the nickname “razorback.” Most feral hogs’ bristles are longer than those of their domestic ancestors, but the hair is shorter than that of purebred Russian boars.
Boars (males) have four sharp tusks that grow continuously, often reaching 5 inches before breaking or becoming worn from use, and they develop a thick, tough layer of cartilage (sometimes called a “shield”) over the shoulders. The bottom tusks are formidable weapons that are used for both defense and dominance during breeding. 2Go To Source nature.mdc.mo.gov -“FERAL HOG Sus scrofa”
Feral Swine Size
Male and female feral pigs can vary in size. Males tend to be larger and weigh more than females. The average feral hog measures as:
- Length: 3–6.6 ft
- Height: 1.8–4.1 ft
- Male Weight: 170-220 lbs
- Female Weight: 130-180 lbs
Behavior Of Wild Hogs
Feral hogs live in and exploit a wide range of environments. Feral hogs require year-round access to reliable and adequate seasonally available forage resources, as well as daily access to shade, water, and escape cover. Plains, mountains, humid swamps, and dry uplands are just a few of the ecoregions where feral hogs can thrive. They live in both remote locations and densely populated areas close to human settlement. They can be found at elevations ranging from sea level to 13,000 feet above sea level.
On the other hand, these animals are not found in deserts, high mountain areas with significant winter snowfall, or intensive agricultural areas with little cover. Feral hogs have shown a preference for wetland and riparian habitats across their range. Furthermore, feral hogs will quickly adapt to habitat changes caused by fire, logging, and natural disasters, except those that result in mast loss. Flooding and heavy snowfalls can also force these animals to move up or down in elevation, searching for suitable habitat.
The daily activity patterns of feral hogs differ depending on where they live. Because feral hog populations are influenced by humans almost constantly and everywhere, it isn’t easy to categorize them as diurnal or nocturnal. Feral hogs have been observed to shift their activity from day to night in relatively undisturbed areas. However, hogs will become more nocturnal due to heavy hunting pressure or human activity during the day.
Feral hog activity patterns can also be influenced by the seasons. Feral hogs, for example, are said to be diurnal in the fall, winter, and spring, with activity peaks in the morning and late in the afternoon and a decrease in the middle of the day. Summertime sees a decrease in diurnal activity and an increase in nocturnal activity. The daily activity patterns of females and males differ. Sows (females) have a relatively constant activity level for long periods of time, whereas boars (males) have brief bursts of activity followed by long periods of relative inactivity.
Feral Pig Reproduction Cycle
The age at which wild pigs reach reproductive maturity varies greatly between populations. Males have been observed reaching sexual maturity by the age of five months and attempting to breed by six months. However, size has a strong correlation with breeding success. As a result, males aren’t usually successful in breeding until they’re 12 to 18 months old.
Female wild pigs can reach reproductive maturity as early as three months of age, though successful first breeding is usually reported between the ages of six and ten months. Female reproductive maturity is correlated with size in the same way that male reproductive maturity is. Females do not reach reproductive maturity unless they weigh between 100 and 140 pounds.
Females (sows) have multiple estrous cycles per year and can breed at any time of year. The average litter size is 4-6 young. A sow’s average gestation period is about 115 days, and she can breed again within a week of weaning her young, which can happen about one month after birth. Although it is physiologically possible for a sow to have three litters in about 14 months, researchers discovered that adult and sub-adult sows in southern Texas averaged 1.57 and 0.85 litters per year, respectively.
Though most wild pig populations have prominent peaks in birthing events that correlate with forage availability, with peaks occurring in the spring and winter months, birthing events can occur at any time of year. Reproduction rates can be higher than average in areas where forage is not a limiting factor, such as cultivated lands or areas where supplemental feeding for wildlife is common practice. 3Go To Source tpwd.texas.gov -“Wild Pigs”
Habitat Of Wild Pigs
Wild boars live in a variety of habitats due to their wide distribution. They can be found in grassy savannas, forested forests, agricultural areas, shrublands, and swampy swamplands. They require a nearby water source as well as protection and concealment (dense vegetation) from predators. They can survive in various climates, but they prefer to avoid extremes of heat and cold. Food sources may limit population density in areas that may experience harsh winter temperatures and increased snowfall. Deeper snows and frozen ground hamper the ability to forage for roots and foliage. 4Go To Source animaldiversity.org -“Sus scrofa wild boar”
Feral Hog Range & Distribution
Feral pigs have established large, free-ranging populations throughout the Rio Grande and Coastal Plains and eastern Texas’ wooded country. States that have feral hogs populations include:
- South Carolina
- North Carolina
- New Mexico
Diet Of Wild Hogs
Insects, reptiles, earthworms, arachnids, crustaceans, fish, myriapods, gastropods, nematodes, amphibians, birds, and mammals are among the animals consumed by feral hogs. Feral hogs will eat the egg, larval/immature, and adult stages of these species, as well as their remains or carcasses.
Diseases Carried By Feral Swine
Wild pigs can carry various parasites and diseases that can endanger the health of humans, livestock, and wildlife. Brucellosis, leptospirosis, salmonellosis, toxoplasmosis, sarcoptic mange, E. coli, and trichinosis are just a few of the diseases that can infect humans. Pseudorabies, swine brucellosis, tuberculosis, vesicular stomatitis, and classical swine fever are all diseases that affect livestock and other animals.
For wild pigs, many disease management strategies used in the livestock industry, such as vaccinations and animal husbandry, are not viable. As a result, wild pigs can act as a reservoir and amplifier for various diseases, making disease eradication in livestock and humans difficult or impossible in areas where wild pigs exist.
People should take health precautions to protect themselves from infection when handling wild pigs, including live animals or carcasses, due to the variety of viruses, bacteria, and parasites that they carry and can infect humans. When handling these pigs, surgical gloves should be worn during all feral pig interactions. A wildlife professional handling a large number of pigs, on the other hand, might opt for more substantial protection, such as a surgical mask, gown or coveralls, and eye protection. 5Go To Source aphis.usda.gov -“MANAGING WILD PIGS”
Feral Hog Damage
According to a USDA study, wild hogs are responsible for $1.5 billion in damages in the United States each year. Wild hogs are particularly destructive to crops, woodland habitats, levees, moist soil units, golf courses, and right-of-ways due to their feeding habits. By trampling, eating crops, or rooting up and eating seeds before they sprout, wild hogs cause massive economic losses for farmers during planting and before harvesting. In many areas, wild hog destruction of seedlings during forest regeneration operations can be a financial loss.
Wild hogs wreak havoc on native flora and fauna, as well as the habitats they inhabit. Wild hogs strain almost all native wildlife species, whether through direct predation of small mammals, amphibians, reptiles, eggs, and insects or by competing for resources with animals like white-tailed deer. Rooting behavior can cause soil disturbances, leading to the spread of invasive plant species like Chinese tallow.
Many of the areas where hogs are now found are also home to endangered or threatened species. Due to wild hog predation, many species such as wading and shorebirds, many amphibians, alligators, and even sea turtles are experiencing reproductive failure or population declines. 6Go To Source mdwfp.com -“Damage Caused by Wild Hogs”
Signs Of Wild Pig Damage
Wild hogs leave some telltale signs that a landowner can easily identify. Feral swine leave behind wallows and rubs, nests, tracks, and scat, as well as rooting and trampling.
Because swine lack functional sweat glands, they create shallow, muddy depressions on their skin to coat themselves in mud. This helps with thermoregulation and keeps biting insects and parasites at bay. They then use nearby trees or power line poles to rub off the excess mud.
A pregnant sow will abandon the sounder to give birth on her own. She builds a grass and foliage nest for her litter to stay in until they are old enough to travel with her. These nests can be found in the thick vegetation of the property’s secluded areas.
The feeding habits of wild hogs are well-known, including rooting and overturning soil to gain food access. This rooting can range in depth from a few inches to several feet. Wild hogs’ trampling behavior can also result in crop destruction and habitat loss.
Hog Damage Prevention Options
Lethal and nonlethal methods can be used to control wild pig populations. Installing fencing to keep pigs out, guard animals to protect livestock, and vaccinate animals to prevent disease spread are all nonlethal options. Trapping, shooting, and dog hunting are all lethal methods.
Feral Hog Trapping & Removal
If you have a hog invasion on your property, the longer you allow them to thrive, the more damage they will cause. When you consider that females can start reproducing as early as seven months of age and have up to 3 litters per year, it’s easy to see how quickly you can have a serious problem.
The size of the feral hog infestation will determine what type of traps are needed. One or two pigs may only require a few box traps that close behind the pigs after entering the trap. Larger groups of wild pigs may warrant corral traps designed to capture multiple pigs at once. The location of the traps is just as important as the size of the trap. Traps set in inefficient locations may never catch any pigs.
Contact a wildlife removal professional for help eradicating the pests from your property. A feral pig removal expert will be able to assess where on the property the pigs are, why they’re there, and what traps would be most efficient for your situation. Pest removal technicians at Animals Happen have decades of experience that will be vital in your feral hog removal process. Contact us today with any questions or concerns regarding pig removal options.
- “USDA APHIS | Feral Swine-Managing an Invasive Species.” USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/wildlifedamage/operational-activities/feral-swine#:%7E:text=Feral%20swine%20are%20descendants%20of,dangerous%2C%20destructive%2C%20invasive%20species. Accessed 12 Mar. 2021.
- “Feral Hog.” MDC Discover Nature, STATE OF MISSOURI, nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/feral-hog. Accessed 12 Mar. 2021.
- “Nuisance Wildlife in Texas: Wild Pigs.” Texas Parks & Wildlife, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/nuisance/feral_hogs. Accessed 12 Mar. 2021.
- Wickline, K. 2014. “Sus scrofa” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed March 12, 2021 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Sus_scrofa/
- West, Ben, et al. “MANAGING WILD PIGS A TECHNICAL GUIDE.” USDA, USDA, www.aphis.usda.gov/wildlife_damage/feral_swine/pdfs/managing-feral-pigs.pdf. Accessed 12 Mar. 2021.
- “MDWFP – Damage Caused by Wild Hogs.” Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks, MDWFP, www.mdwfp.com/wildlife-hunting/wild-hog-program/about-wild-hogs/damage-caused-by-wild-hogs. Accessed 12 Mar. 2021.