What if the real villain of fairytales wasn’t the big bad wolf? Ask any rancher in Texas about encounters with those pesky porkers and he’d place his bet on those little pigs. Only these aren’t cute pink pigs portrayed in storybooks. These nasty and voracious critters have been wreaking havoc along southern states, destroying natural resources and farmland in their wake. Their numbers are increasing. While feral pigs have firmly established themselves along the south, there have been reported sightings as far north as Canada.
Per the Washington Post, feral pigs have caused the nation approximately $1.5 billion in damage each year. One incident occurred back in September 2006, when an outbreak of E. coli spread across 26 states and parts of Canada from contaminated spinach, traced to a field in central California. Local cattle were originally thought to be culprits of the outbreak as occurrence of E. coli is largely associated with bovines. After thorough studies of ranches in contaminated areas, the CDC discovered a high density of feral swine in the vicinity, hypothesizing that the mechanical method in which spinach is harvested allowed for possible fecal contamination of the soil. Other theories point to fecal contamination of irrigation water as a vessel for spreading the disease. It is clear that the encroachment of these critters pose a serious threat to the agricultural industry.
Feral pigs are not native to America, having been introduced hundreds of years ago by European explorers & settlers who brought them for food and hunting. It’s a pity those explorers failed to anticipate the impact this would have on us today. Today this creature is regarded as both a prized resource and economical and environmental threat.
Feral pigs are intelligent, opportunistic, and highly prolific. Adults reach sexual maturity at six months, and can produce up to eight piglets a litter, with females able to produce two litters of offspring per year. Reaching in upwards of three hundred pounds, predators don’t pose a real threat to them. Dubbed the ultimate omnivore, they’ll eat practically anything from plant matter, to insects, to carrion and small animals. In doing so, they damage crops, destroy native habitat, contaminate water supplies and can spread disease to both humans and livestock.
How do we cauterize the economic wound? Unfortunately there is no clear cut answer to this dilemma. While proponents of PETA and the US Fishing and Wildlife Service would both agree that “This is a problem that humans have created,” they differ in their approach to finding a solution. PETA suggests simple adjustments such as erecting inexpensive fencing and sealing trash containers can be effective deterrents. This idea does not take into account feral pigs’ tenacity and their ability to thwart such obstacles. While PETA’s supporters argue any other method for population control is considered unethical and cruel, they do not address the impact on native plants and endangered species. In the meantime, whether by military drones, compound bow, or high powered rifle, it’s open season year round on the invasive feral swine.