February 6, 2017
by John Hopton
Wild pigs were first introduced to the southern United States in the 1500s to provide early settlers and explorers with something to eat, and the Eurasian or Russian wild boar was brought over in the 1900s for sport hunting. Fast forward to 2017, and millions of feral pigs are wreaking havoc in dozens of states.
Escaped domestic pigs, descendants of wild boar and hybrids of both make up the more than 5 million wild swine that are costing an estimated $1.5 billion a year. The sum comes from the damage they cause as well as the need to control them.
Gail Keirn, a public affairs specialist at the USDA-APHIS-WS National Wildlife Research Center, said:
“Feral swine cause major damage to property, agriculture (crops and livestock), native species and ecosystems, and cultural and historic resources. This invasive species also threatens the health of people, wildlife, pets, and other domestic animals. As feral swine populations continue to expand across the country, these damages, costs, and risks will only keep rising.”
Wild pigs breed rapidly and seem able to adapt to any climate. They eat just about anything while lacking natural predators.
At home in most counties within fifty years
As well as moving northward quickly since 2004, feral pigs spread throughout regions of Canada in the 1980s and now threaten to expand into the northern US from both above and below.
Experts say the northward expansion in recent years is likely due to climate change causing milder northern winters, which are easier to survive than they used to be.