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We Can't Barbecue Our Way Out: Why Feral Swine Management Requires a National Approach

Posted by Gail Keirn, USDA APHIS Public Affairs Specialist in Animals Plants
Feb 21, 2017
Invasive feral swine have spread rapidly across the United States as a result of natural range expansion, illegal trapping and movement by people, and escapes from domestic swine operations and hunting preserves.
Invasive feral swine have spread rapidly across the United States as a result of natural range expansion, illegal trapping and movement by people, and escapes from domestic swine operations and hunting preserves.

Wild boar, razorback, feral hog, wild pig — these are just some of the names we attribute to one of the most destructive and formidable invasive species in the United States. Feral swine adapt to just about any habitat, have few natural enemies, and reproduce at high rates. As such, their population is growing rapidly nationwide. At 5 million animals and counting, feral swine are now found in at least 39 States and cause approximately $1.5 billion in damages and control costs each year. Their damage is diverse and includes destroying native habitats and crops, eating endangered species, and spreading disease. Natural resource managers, researchers and academics nationwide are grappling with how best to address the challenges of feral swine management.

Feral swine are hunted by the public in some States for recreational purposes; but hunting will not solve our country’s feral swine problems.

“Feral swine don’t know boundaries and what happens in one State affects neighboring States,” states 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 it partners hope to accomplish just that. In 2014, APHIS Wildlife Services 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 reduce their population, damage, and associated disease risks.  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.  The initiative will be highlighted at the 2014 International Wild Pig Conference in Montgomery, Alabama, on April 14-16. For more information, please visit the APHIS feral swine web page.

April is Invasive Plant, Pest, and Disease Awareness Month.  Learn more about APHIS Wildlife Services activities related to invasive wildlife.

Category/Topic: Animals Plants

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Kate Campbell
Apr 04, 2014

Perhaps the logic used here to outline problems with feral swine could be used to address problems with non-native, invasive feral-equine species.

Dale Hart
Apr 04, 2014

Figuring 5 million pigs and $20 million from Congress that's only $4 per hog which is an insult to anyone truly concerned about this problem. Each pig is claimed to do $300 in crop damage so get serious; time for bounties which are meaningful. Texas now is paying $5 a hog which is not enough; I was getting $4 a fox 5 decades ago. Make it open season year round, $5 for every sow-hog and $20 for every boar-hog. Get rid of the breeder boars and you'll make a difference

julie pear
Apr 04, 2014

to kate cammpbell...why do you consider a few thousand horses equivalent to feral hogs? there is an extreme difference in damage caused between the two species. leave the equines alone!!

bill bobs
Apr 04, 2014

We did it to passenger pigeons. We almost did it to all sorts of geese, ducks, other waterfowl. It was called "market hunting". The species I mentioned above were used food...not for sport. Bounty hunting means leaving the meat and keeping an ear. Too wasteful. We have an opportunity to feed lots of people here across many states and it can be done safely with food security. The same thing could be said for the thousands of deer laying on the interstate highways. But we can't say it, because those are game species. Feral swine aren't. We know their destructive nature. We are supposed to be good stewards of the land; lets show some of it.

Apr 04, 2014

Feral horses will spread the same way in just a few years. The carbon foot print and the conservation damage feral horses are doing to states in the west is similar to what these feral hogs are doing now. An invasive species is just that, an invasive species, and you either take care of the problem or it becomes so large it will overwhelm all other animal life and plant life. Mr. Ed and Miss. Piggy hold a special place in many hearts but once they become a menace to society we have to be responsible.

Apr 06, 2014

Bounties don't work. With all that money being allocated they should come up with some type of immunocontraception. There should DEFINITELY be a plan for meat distribution for the needy.

Apr 07, 2014

Great point Kate. We need more people to get educated as to how much damage exotic feral horses do, and how many there are (35,000 plus) and how many are in holding facilities and other places (50,000 plus).

Then again how does that compare to the Eurasian sheep and cattle?

Apr 09, 2014

Man is the biggest destroyer, stop all the lies, get rid of that killing agency, Wildlife Services, demand no gmo, no grazing on public lands, no hunting in our refuges.

The natural world is better off without the so called "management" lies.

Karl van der Hosen
Apr 12, 2014

Aphis is great at Justifying its existing budget & wasting natural resources. Are Feral hog numbers inflated? Cry wolf, APHIS! Get more taxpayer money.

May 04, 2014

I think the government should offer some type of tax credit toward the purchase of thermal sights for the use in reducing the number of feral hogs in the US. Thermal sights are probably the most effective method after helicopters to controlling the number of feral hogs.

S Walker
Dec 06, 2014

Open season year around no charge for tag and the meat donated to shelters and senior centers and food banks

Aug 13, 2015

The title of the blog, "Barbecue our way out", is insulting and beneath the dignity of a taxpayer funded federal employee. I don't eat animals and I'm disgusted with the implication of barbecuing a pig. Bring some professionalism and dignity to your blog posts. USDA is disgusting.

Karen D
Oct 05, 2016

'We can't barbecue our way out' is really offensive. We ARE talking about killing these animals and even feral pigs have families, feelings, and the intelligence of a toddler. Suggest you consider a more sensitive title next time.

Mark Forrester
Feb 02, 2017

I don't see feral hogs lying on the interstate like all the dead dear. Maybe we should concentrate on the deer and all the damage they do first.

Fred Liebkemann
Feb 11, 2018

Have you tried barbequing our way out of the problem? Here in Louisiana, federal wildlife management areas are off limits to recreational hog hunters 10 months a year and instead, our tax money is used to hire snipers and helicopters to fly around and kill them. This is moronic. I've got to go to the store and buy pork butts for my venison sausage because the federal government will not let me harvest a couple of feral hogs in the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area a few miles from my home unless deer season is open.

Ben Weaver
Feb 13, 2018

@Fred Liebkemann - thank you for your comment. Feral swine are a risk to human and domestic animal health, harm threatened and endangered species, hurt native wildlife and natural resources, uproot crops, damage yards, ruin golf courses and threaten water quality. They eat anything they can find, including salamanders, insects, frogs, and the eggs of ground nesting birds, reptiles, and amphibians. They are prolific breeders, with more than an estimated 6 million feral swine in at least 35 states, inflicting more than $1.5 billion dollars in damage each year. In addition, feral swine are known to carry multiple diseases, such as Brucellosis, Trichinella, and Leptospirosis, which can infect humans. Disease transmission can occur through direct contact with feral swine or by eating raw or undercooked meat or organs from an infected wild animal. 

Wildlife Services efforts are targeted on reducing damage to agricultural and natural resources.  Wildlife Services focuses on removing entire sounders (social groups of swine) predominantly with trapping and aerial operations. This differs from sport hunting which removes only one or two individuals from a sounder, educating the remaining individuals, making them more difficult to locate and remove. Sport hunting also disperses feral swine populations across the landscape which has the effect of increasing the damage they do to agriculture and natural resources.  Regulations surrounding sport hunting of feral swine are established by individual states and are in place to protect public safety and wildlife resources.

Mar 08, 2018

Hey Karen, newsflash, the USDA has a great deal to do with killing animals. Animal agriculture is bigger than ever, and the USDA/FSIS makes sure it's done right. Sorry that it offends you, but killing feral hogs should be a top priority. They need to be eradicated, and that's not going to happen by spaying and neutering them all.

Buddy Smith
Mar 14, 2018

Wild Hogs have been eliminated in the USA before... by barbeque!
I guess we don't have many people left that lived through the Great Depression in the 1930's?

Marc Calcia
Apr 25, 2018

bbq the way out? it worked to do in the passenger pigeon, it almost wiped out the buffalo, and hunting wiped out wolves and mountain lions on the east coast. All you have to do is open up hunting and trapping , and allow the commercial sale of the hogs, and that will end the problem.

Morgan McGee
Dec 09, 2018

Numbers inflated?? I live in Vermont and happened across this site as I want to hunt wild hogs. When I looked at the 'Distribution Map' on this site, I was shocked to see the counties in Vermont listed on the map. I have hunted all over New England for 40+ years. Never have I heard of feral hogs any where near here. Sure, the off story of a guy that 'saw' a pig in the woods, and one story of a game farm that had a hole in the fence and lost a couple pigs. I hunt these counties where they say there are hogs, sorry, they are not here. Somebody should do a oversight investigation on them. I have no problem of them taking care of the problem where it actually exists and asking for the appropriate funding to get it done, but this is a political issue just pumping the numbers for more funding. If all these programs used just what they need to, there would be the money for the other programs that also need it. Come on, do this program right, try some internal accountability for the information - get rid of the 'employees' pumping the numbers!

Ben Weaver
Dec 12, 2018

@Morgan McGee - thank you for your comment. Since 2014, USDA Wildlife Services has confirmed a small presence of feral swine in three Vermont counties and worked with the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture Foods and Markets to pass regulations to address potential damage concerns to the state’s agricultural and natural resources. These regulations also make it illegal to transport, or possess feral swine, an invasive species. Thanks to enhanced surveillance, credible reporting from the public, and active management by Wildlife Services and its partners, the current feral swine population in Vermont is thought to be minimal and is not due to natural expansion as is the case in many parts of the country. The 2018 distribution map which shows feral swine in three Vermont counties was recently updated based on verified game camera photos and sightings. The map notes the presence/absence of feral swine by county and not actual abundance levels. Wildlife Services works closely with state officials to monitor and manage feral swine in the state with the goal of eradication.

Linda Palson
Dec 21, 2018

Please.... 5 million pigs look any way you look at it there a HUGH need to feed thise in need... I'm sure Appling food safety regulations this cause and should be what happens here. 5 million pigs could go along way in feeding the hungry.....

Larry Chiem
Jun 18, 2019

I'd like to help hunt feral swine. Any suggestions on a community perhaps of private land owners where I can help reduce the population by hunting them?

Ben Weaver
Jun 21, 2019

@Larry Chiem - thank you for your comment. APHIS does not provide opportunities to hunt feral swine. APHIS Wildlife Services conducts targeted wildlife damage management at the request of landowners in order to protect agricultural and ecological resources damaged by feral swine. Unlike hunting, which removes only a few individual animals from a region, Wildlife Services’ targeted efforts remove entire sounders of feral swine from a region; reducing or eliminating the damage they do. Your State Department of Agriculture or game management agency may be able to assist you with finding the opportunities you ask about.

Nov 04, 2020

This is very helpful!!!!!! :)