Feral swine continue to expand their territory in the United States and the potential to destroy crops, kill wildlife and spread disease. They have been spotted all the way from Texas to California to Michigan and New York. Feral pigs are now found in about 40 states and are extremely prolific and highly adaptable.
There are thought to be at least 4 million feral pigs nationwide, but getting an accurate count is difficult. There may be many more, according to Carol Bannerman, USDA Wildlife Services’ spokesperson. It’s estimated that the pigs cause more than $8 million worth of damage every year. “That amount doesn’t include impact to the natural environment and native species or to water,” Bannerman notes.
A significant contributor to the spread of feral pigs is the illegal interstate movement of the animals for hunting purposes.
The increase in range and population is a growing threat to the U.S. pork industry. “Feral swine are known to carry diseases including pseudorabies and brucellosis which have been eradicated from the U.S. commercial pork industry,” says Harry Snelson, DVM, director of communications, American Association of Swine Veterinarians. “They also are susceptible to exotic diseases such as classical swine fever and African swine fever, which are endemic in many areas of the world and would be devastating if introduced into the U.S. swine herd.”
Due to their reproductive and adaptive capabilities, efforts to control the spread of these animals have been largely ineffective. “For these reasons, we strongly encourage pork producers to implement and maintain biosecurity practices such as fencing and indoor housing to promote separation between commercial swine and feral hogs,” Snelson says. “In addition, producers should collaborate with wildlife officials and animal health authorities on feral pig control and eradication programs.”