Free-ranging feral swine — often called wild pig, wild boar or feral hog — have expanded their range from 17 to 39 states in the last 30 years. Not native to North America, feral swine have grown to an estimated population of 5 million nationwide.
Expansion of this invasive species is of significant concern to farmers, livestock producers, natural resource managers, animal health officials and the general public. Feral swine have arguably become the most invasive and destructive large mammal species in North America and now inhabit many Northeastern states, including New Hampshire. The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, or APHIS, Wildlife Services is seeking information from the public in documenting the extent of their presence in New Hampshire.
This year, Congress appropriated $20 million for APHIS to begin a collaborative national feral swine management initiative, which will also rely on APHIS Veterinary Services and International Services, and other local, state and federal partners. The goal is to prevent further spread of feral swine and reduce populations, damage and associated disease risks to humans and domestic swine. Management efforts will be modified and adapted to the needs and objectives of different state locations and habitats.
“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,” notes Dale Nolte, national feral swine initiative coordinator for APHIS.
Nationwide, feral swine cause an estimated $1.5 billion in damage annually. Using their snouts like rototillers to search for food, feral swine destroy lawns and landscapes, gardens, parks and golf courses in suburban and rural communities. Rooting can vary from less than 6 inches to as deep as 2 feet. Feral swine damage agricultural crops and fields by rooting and creating wallows — mud baths — in pastures, consuming and trampling crops, and preying upon livestock and poultry. They devastate native habitat by impacting forest regeneration and restoration, as well as contaminating water supplies and reducing water quality due to feces, erosion and sedimentation.
These voracious omnivores consume many plant and animal species. They 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 now listed as rare, threatened, endangered or of special concern. Feral swine also out-compete native wildlife for food such as acorns and beechnuts, important resources to New Hampshire 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. Human health risks include diseases such as brucellosis, leptospirosis and trichinosis. Feral swine are also vectors for livestock diseases including brucellosis, pseudorabies and classical swine fever, which are a significant risk to our country’s multibillion 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 said property owner. Feral swine 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 to 200 pounds.
Mostly active at night, they leave behind unique signs to indicate their presence such as rooting, wallows and tree rubs. Tracks are similar to deer, but swine hoofs are rounder 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, report sightings and any information to APHIS Wildlife Services. Wildlife services also seeks to obtain fresh blood and tissue samples from feral swine carcasses for disease testing and biological data collection. These efforts will help protect New Hampshire agriculture and natural resources. Wildlife services is conducting similar surveillance in Vermont, Maine and New York.
To report feral swine, contact Tony Musante, USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services, 59 Chenell Drive, Suite 7, Concord, NH 03301.
Musante can also be reached by calling 603-223-6832 or 603-340-2890.