Tony Musante, Wildlife Disease Biologist, USDA/APHIS-Wildlife Services: 603-223-6832
May 16, 2014
Public Asked to Report Feral Swine
CONCORD, N.H. – The public is being asked to report any sightings of free-ranging feral swine, more commonly called wild pig, wild boar or feral hog. These animals can now be found from Florida to Washington, with an estimated population of 5 million nationwide. Feral swine are not native to North America and have expanded their range from 17 to 39 states in the last 30 years. They currently inhabit many northeastern states, including New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont.
Expansion of this invasive species is of significant concern to farmers, livestock producers, natural resource managers, animal health officials, and the general public. In the past few decades, feral swine have arguably become the most invasive and destructive large mammal species in North America. They have been labeled an ecological disaster, in large part because our ecosystems did not evolve with feral swine and therefore have not adapted to their damaging behavior.
Turning the Tide on Feral Swine
"Feral swine don't know boundaries and what happens in one state affects neighboring states," says APHIS' new national feral swine initiative coordinator Dr. Dale Nolte. "Only through a concerted, comprehensive effort with the public and our State and Federal partners, can we begin to turn the tide on feral swine expansion and reduce their negative impacts to our economy and environment."
The USDA and its partners hope to accomplish just that. In 2014, APHIS Wildlife Services (WS) received $20 million from Congress to begin a collaborative, national feral swine management initiative with APHIS Veterinary Services and International Services, as well as numerous local, State and Federal partners. The goal of the initiative is to prevent the further spread of feral swine, as well as to reduce their population, damage, and associated disease risks to protect both human health and the health of domestic swine. Though management efforts will occur in many different locations and habitats throughout the United States, these actions will be modified and adapted to best meet the needs and objectives of each state.
Feral Swine Damage
Nationwide, it is estimated that feral swine annually cause approximately $1.5 billion in damage and can destroy as much as 1,000 acres per hour. Their aggressive rooting behavior – when they use their snouts to uproot the vegetation and earth in search food – can cause substantial property damage in suburban communities, leading to destruction of lawns and landscape, backyard gardens, parks, and golf courses. Affected areas will appear as if they have been run over by a number of out-of-control rototillers. Severity can range from superficial rooting of less than 6 inches deep, to more extensive rooting of 1-2 feet deep.
Feral swine cause agricultural damage by rooting and creating wallows (mud baths) in pastures, consuming and trampling crops from corn to soybeans and preying upon livestock and poultry. They devastate native habitat by impacting forest regeneration and restoration, as well as contaminate water supplies and reduce water quality through fecal material, erosion and increased sedimentation.
Feral swine are voracious omnivores that will consume many plant and animal species. They will prey upon insects, frogs, salamanders, white-tailed deer fawns, wild turkeys, grouse, woodcock, and other ground-nesting birds and their eggs. In Florida, feral swine are associated with the decline of at least 26 plant and animal species that are now listed as rare, threatened, endangered, or of special concern. Feral swine will also out-compete native wildlife for food, such as acorns and beechnuts, which are important and variable resources to New Hampshire's wildlife.
Feral swine can transmit as many as 30 pathogens and 37 parasites, many of which pose serious threats to humans, livestock, wildlife, and pets. Humans are susceptible to such diseases as brucellosis, leptospirosis and trichinosis. Along with these human health risks, feral swine are vectors for livestock diseases, including brucellosis, pseudorabies and classical swine fever, which pose a significant risk to our country's multi-billion dollar commercial domestic swine industry.
Signs, Tracks and Reporting
Feral swine have no legal game status in New Hampshire, but are considered escaped private property and may only be hunted with permission by the property owner. The pigs come in many colors, shapes and sizes due to their hybridizations, but are most often black or brown. An average adult weighs anywhere from 100-200 pounds. Although most of their activity occurs under the cover of night, they leave behind unique sign to indicate their presence, such as rooting, wallows and tree rubs. Tracks are similar to deer, although swine hoofs are rounder in overall shape and tend to be more splayed and blunt at the tips than deer tracks.
To assist in determining the presence of feral swine and aid in mapping distinct populations please report sightings and any information to USDA Wildlife Services. WS is also interested in obtaining fresh blood and tissue samples from the carcasses of harvested and road killed feral swine for disease testing and biological data collection. The results of this effort will help protect agriculture and natural resources of New Hampshire. WS is conducting similar surveillance activities in Vermont, Maine and New York.
To report feral swine please contact:
Tony Musante, Wildlife Disease Biologist
59 Chenell Drive Suite 7
Concord, NH 03301
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