They spread disease and pollute the land. They devour birds and baby fauns. They have sharp teeth, weigh 300 pounds, and are now in 38 states across the US. It sounds like the stuff of nightmares, but the wild pig is real and they cause damage to farms and rural communities throughout America.
Dr. Jack Mayer, author of Wild Pigs in the United States: Their History, Comparative Morphology and Current Status, and James Dixon, a wildlife damage specialist working for the Missouri Department of Conservation join us to help us understand this growing nuisance to Missouri and Kansas.
According to Dr. Mayer, the wild pig we know today is actually made up of two different breeds—the feral hog and the Asian wild boar. And none of these species is native to our country, but were actually first brought here by Hernando de Soto in the 16th Century. De Soto began his expedition in Florida and brought a large herd of pigs with him. As he traveled through the Southern United States, it became harder to take care of and feed the pigs, so he would release them into the wild where they would need to fend and forage for themselves.
And this population remained unchanged for hundreds of years—until the 1990s. Pig hunting had become a big business in Florida, and other states wanted in on the action. People began capturing these pigs and releasing them illegally across state borders where they would then be hunted. For farmers, conservationists, environmentalists, and anyone who’s not a big game hunter, the increasing pig population has become a major headache.
James Dixon says, “Our goal is to eradicate the feral hog.” The Missouri Department of Conservation has an order to have anyone shoot them on sight, and it appears that there are no redeeming qualities to feral hogs. “A couple of pigs can destroy several acres of land in just a day or two,” says Dixon.
Dr. Mayer has been conducting research on wild pigs for over 40 years. Although mostly focused on morphological work, it has also included research on wild pigs in the areas of systematics, behavior, population biology, reproductive biology, damage, impacts, and management techniques. He is the senior author of Wild Pigs in the United States.
Here is a video produced by the Missouri Department of Conservation about the hog situation in Missouri: