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What are Feral Swine?

Juvenile wild hogs rooting, searching for food in the forest- Shutterstock - Slatan_edited

An Invader on the Landscape

Also referred to as wild boar and feral hogs, feral swine are defined as any free-ranging member of the species Sus scrofa (NC General Statute § 113-129 (5c)), which also includes all domestic pig breeds. Domestic swine were originally released in North Carolina as a source of food for European explorers in the 1500s. Additional releases over the years, popularization of “boar” hunting, and decades of protection as a game animal (1979-2011) led to expanding populations across the state. 

Today, feral swine are one of the world’s most destructive invasive species, causing billions of dollars in damages annually in the United States. They pose a direct threat to food security, clean water, and natural resources.

Carriers of Disease

Feral swine can carry at least 30 diseases and nearly 40 types of parasites that may affect people, pets, livestock, and wildlife. They can also transmit foodborne illnesses, such as E. coli, toxoplasmosis, and trichinosis. 

With the introduction of the Asian longhorned tick to the United States in 2017, it is possible that feral swine can carry these ticks, and the longhorned tick is known to transmit the agents of certain livestock and human diseases in other countries including: anaplasmosis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, theileriosis and rickettsiosis, as well as several viruses. Currently, these ticks have been found in 8 counties in North Carolina.

 

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A destructive force

               Feral swine cause major damage to property, agriculture (crops and livestock), native species and ecosystems, and cultural and historic resources. In fact, this invasive species costs the United States an estimated $2.5 billion per year in damages and control costs.  Feral swine destroy landscaping, damage fences and other structures, and otherwise reduce the aesthetic value of private properties, public parks, and recreational areas. Because of their large size, vehicles and aircraft can be damaged or destroyed resulting in loss of life or costly property damage.

Recorded Webinar: Feral Swine Management for Livestock Operators

What we know

               Feral swine are invasive in North Carolina and highly destructive on the landscape. In the past decade, complaints and damages have increased along with a growing feral swine population. In 2019, citizens reported harvesting 229 feral swine in North Carolina, and more likely went unreported. Several state and federal agencies decided to work together to learn more about this growing problem and develop long-term solutions. The resulting NC Feral Swine Task Force is responsible for assessing feral swine sightings and damages and implementing population control techniques. As of now, efforts are concentrated in Sampson County, where a large amount of agricultural activity takes place, and many vulnerable pig farms are located.

 

If you have seen feral swine or their damage, or have harvested any, let us know by following the link below. Reports from NC residents are crucial for understanding how these animals are impacting the landscape.

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