I have had a love/hate relationship with feral hogs that began back in the early 90’s. I’m not sure when feral hogs, most commonly called wild hogs were first introduced into Oklahoma, but in the late 80’s and early 90’s they really started making themselves known around the area I live in in Johnston co. and our neighboring counties. Since then, I have watched them spread across the state and throughout other states leaving the agency’s responsible for the governing of feral hogs frantically trying to come up with a plan to halt their progress and lessen their destruction of native species.
The feral hogs rapid spread is due in part to over zealous people introducing them to new areas, not realizing the destruction and havoc they would have on native habitat and farming and ranching operations.
Feral hogs come in all shapes, sizes and colors. I have trapped piglets to hogs weighing in excess of 300 lbs. and although rare, not uncommon. Some will have long snouts, big shouldered and small hips while others will have a more domestic look with the short snout and a blocky build. some will have a ridge of hair along their back with long curly hair over the rest of their body while others will be short haired. A lot depends on if they have the russian strain and how long they have been ferral. They also come in about every color imaginable from solid colors in red, black, brown, gray, white or a mixture of them. Hamp colored, pollen china etc. and the piglest are usually a varient of these colors with chimpmunk like stripes.
I started trapping wild hogs for the table fare they provided and they offered another opportunity for hunting as they are a wary, smart, cunning animal and they provide an element of danger. The only real chink in their armor is their eyesight as they smell and hear as well or better than any whitetail. When trapping them I sold a few to those providing hunts behind fenced acres to help with the expense of hog trap material, gas, corn and even a few prizes for a wild game dinner, but most I gave away to those wanting them for meat.
It was fun for a while when they were more or less a novelty and fairly new to the areas I hunted, but over the years as the population rose year after year and the destruction they were causing to native wildlife and the land, my dislike for them also grew. I still enjoy hunting them and have no qualms about eating them and will admit to having some admiration for them and their abilities to adapt and survive, but like the old saying; Too much of a good thing is not always good and they soon became too much of what I once believed was a good thing.
Wild hogs are smart creatures, if you catch one in a trap and it somehow gets out you will have a hard time catching it again, especially in the same trap. I even experiemented with some piglets that were born to a sow we had trapped and kept for a couple of months. She gave birth while in a pen and the piglets could go back and forth through the panels so one day I decided to catch one on the outside of the pen in a live trap designed for raccoon. After catching one of the piglets and then turning it loose I could not catch it again. Even after making a funnel of boards to the trap the piglet would not commit itself to going into the trap. Lesson learned. I also had a sow that kept herself between one of my traps and her pigs, bypassing the trap and bait inside. I have also been humbled by a wild hogs strength. In my early 30’s I was a 220 lb. man, strong and in good physical condition when I found out a 50 lb. hog could move an object that I couldn’t. I can also testify to their agility to climb cattle panels and riverbanks, to jump over 4 foot high obstacles or go through said obstacles. If a wild hog can gets it’s head through something you can pretty much bet the rest of it is going through too. They are strong, built like a wedge and seem to not feel pain in those hard wedge shaped heads. I have had them blow through cattle panels and they will run through the thickest briar patch or brush without so much as slowing down. They will also not hesitate to hit water, swiming with only their nose and eyes visible above the water line. As I said before, their only down fall seems to be their eyesight. Stand still next to a tree or hunker down and they will walk right upon you if the wind is right, but let them get a wiff and they are gone. I have had them wind me from a couple hundred yards away. They also have excellent hearing.
Combine their physical ability, their super senses, their sense of survival, their smarts and their ability to reproduce at only 4 months of age and 3 times in a 12 month span and its no wonder they are hard to keep under control and keep spreading over the land like a plague without an antidote. There is a saying that if a wild hog has 12 piglets that 13 will live. In reality the good thing is the average litter size is between five and eight with only about a thirty percent survival rate, but when you multiply even those low numbers by three they can be overwhelming.
The problems wild hogs cause farming and ranching are many. I have seen where they have gone down rows of newly planted peanuts eating the seeds leaving a furrow as straight as the farmer and his tractor. I have seen where they have straddled corn rows pushing the stalks down where they can get at the ears of corn. I know of one rancher who had to have a dozer level his pasture after being rooted up and having wallows so big they couldn’t use a tractor in it and I shudder to think what they could do to a hog farmer. Wild hogs also pose other hazzards. On areas I hunt, I have watched the wild hog population rise and the turkey population fall. As the hogs were removed, the turkey population would rise. I believe they (along with several other problems) also factor into the disapperance of the bobwhite quail in our area. They can devistate a creek bank and leave a small clear pond a muddy mess. Wild hogs go through an oak grove scarfing up acorns making it look like a giant vaccume cleaner has been through there and I have watched a big boar run off a nice 10 pt. and little 4 pt. from a red oak tree. I don’t know if there are satistics on wild hog related cost to motor vehicles each year as their are deer, but I bet the cost would be pretty high as I have seen plenty that have been run over on the highways. Wild hogs also carry diseases, the two most common being Pseudo Rabies and Swine Brucellosis. They are usually also infested with hog lice and less common, fleas and ticks. And yes, wild hogs can be a hazzard to those in the woods. Granted, most times a wild hog will run from you, but their are circumstances where they can charge a person such as a sow being protective of piglets or a big boar that feels cornered or is just having a bad day.
A wild hog is a predator. It will eat most anything including grubs, grass tubers, mast, crops, carrion and any animal, bird or reptile it comes across if the opportunity presents itself. A mature wild hog has few if any enemies that are it’s equal in size, strength and temperment.
When trapping wild hogs I would at different times have some held in captivity and even raised a piglet to a boar that would weigh upwards of 400 pounds. He was solid black and pretty scary looking with tusks protuding up to 4 inches (he would usually break them off by accident on the panels if they got longer). He wasn’t mean, just a big o’l pet that liked his back scratched, but could be dangerous with his size and the size of his tusks even if he didn’t mean too. Having wild hogs in captivity allowed me to observe some of their behavior. I learned that different hogs have different personalities and each wild hog is not created equal. Some would tame down fairly quick while others never tamed down. some would seem calm, but would watch every move you made and I believe waiting on their opportunity while others would jump at you every chance they got. Wild hogs have pecking orders and will fight and a wild hog fight can be quite ferious, but once the fight is over and dominance has been declared they will pile up and be mud buddies, seemingly all ill feelings being forgotten. When a boar is fighting and his tail goes limp, he has admitted defeat and it is not always the biggest boar with the bigest tusks that is declared the winner, it is the one who is the meanest and has the most fight in them.
Not only did I observe the wild hogs behaviors, I got to see what they like to eat. A friend who helped me trap the hogs was able to get produce and such from a grocery store and we would feed this to the ones we had in captivity when possible to save corn and keep the costs down. We found that their favorite was avocados, no doubt about it. They would choose avocados over a multitude of other fruits and vegetables including watermelon, cantaloupe, apples, grapes, citris fruits etc. If given peaches they would smash the peach and eat the seed leaving the pulp behind. They also had a fondness for tofu, go figure. Given their choice of various vegatables and fruits, if I tossed the remains from ducks we had harvested the hogs would choose the ducks, ripping them apart by placing their feet on what was left of the carcass and pulling with their teeth. I discovered by accident what seemed to be a treat for them. When we didn’t have enough outdated stuff from the grocery chain I would have to feed them corn. (Wild hogs have the ability to pick up a single kernal of corn with their tongue much like a chicken does with its beak). On one occasion there were several red wasps in the corn looking for a place to hole up because it was turning cold and they couldn’t fly. When I scooped the corn up I also scooped up some of the red wasps. I tossed them into the pen with the corn and the hogs scarfed up the wasps as quick as they found them. To make sure it wasn’t a fluke and that they just didn’t eat them with the corn by accident, the next morning I scooped up several wasps without the corn and tossed them into the pen. The wild hogs went after them like they were candy. I did this on several occasions with the same results with different wild hogs.
I dont believe there is one sure way to control the wild hog population, but I believe several methods combined are the only way to keep them in what might be considered a controllable population. The aerial hunting by helicopter seems to be pretty effective, but is not 100 percent because of the terrain wild hogs occupy and it can be expensive. Trapping is also a good way to rid a piece of land of wild hogs in a significant quanity without breaking the bank although they can eventually become trap shy if caught and get out (and they do know where the door is and will try to open it.) Hunting them wih hounds will catch a few and if pursued relentlessly will drive them out of the vicinity for a while. Traditional methods of hunting them will take a few, but the person who gets more than one shot is lucky and quick unless they are in the open. Spotlighting where leagal is another avenue where a few hogs can be taken, further putting a dent in the population.
All the above methods combined will not eradicate wild hogs, just maybe keep them in check. I believe wild hogs are here to stay unless a disease wipes them out. If you don’t have wild hogs on your land I suggest you count yourself blessed even if they are a challenge and fun to hunt, the trade off of their negative attributes to the land and wildlife doesn’t seem worth the gain in my opinion. If you do have hogs and are not managing them (which means getting rid of eveyone you can because you will never get them all) you will eventually have more than you are able to deal with. I also believe that cooperaton among landowners is a must if wild hogs are to be controlled over a large area. If you have fenced acreage and you want to deter wild hogs from entering I suggest hanging plastic grocery sacks wherever you find a crossing under your fence. I experimented with this method and have had success at deterring them. I realize this may not be feasible over a large land area, but should not be a problem for small areas such as crop fields, small pastures or orchards.
For laws concerning the hunting, removal, transportation and holding of wild hogs contact your states wildlife or natural resources department or your local United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) representative because ferral hogs could be listed as game animals making them fall under the management of the state’s wildlife and conservation laws or they could be regarded as domestic livestock, bringing them in subjection within the states agriculture department and the USDA or all of the agencies may have jurisdiction depending on the location and circumstances. Be sure, be safe and do native wildlife a favor and go kill a wild hog.