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Wild Pigs’ Rampages Through Suburbs and Farms Earn Them Death Penalty

Wild Pigs’ Rampages Through Suburbs and Farms Earn Them Death Penalty

Some very intelligent feral pigs are having their way with crops, gardens and wildlife, and people can’t figure out how to stop them.

The Wildlife Society, which supports killing wild pigs because of their effects on wildlife and ecosystems, summarizes the damage they can cause:

Feral swine are one of the greatest vertebrate modifiers of natural plant communities. Feral swine damage to property, agriculture, and natural resources often occurs as a result of their aggressive rooting (i.e., grubbing, plowing, digging) activities at and below the surface of the soil. In sandy soils, feral swine may root to a depth of 1 [meter] but even shallow rooting can cause significant soil erosion. Wallowing activities may reduce water quality and disrupt sensitive wetland ecosystems. Other documented damage includes destruction of livestock fencing, damage to farm equipment in rooted areas, and predation on young livestock, ground nesting birds, amphibians, reptiles, and other wildlife. Economic losses resulting from feral swine damage is estimated at greater than $1 billion per year and is increasing.

Wild pigs may also carry nearly three dozen diseases that they can pass on to humans and other animals. They also threaten efforts to reintroduce native wildlife: for example, the federal government has been trying to increase the populations of sand dune lizards and lesser prairie chickens, both of which the pigs eat.

The pigs are hard to stop in part because they are very intelligent. “They’re much brighter than I am,” said New Mexico veterinarian and Land Commissioner Ray Powell. “If they had the dexterity, they’d be driving vehicles around. I mean these guys are really smart.”

There are more than five million wild pigs in the United States. They have made Texas their own and are working towards dominance in other states as well.

Feral swine often spread from state to state through the intervention of sport hunters who want their prey nearby. As a non-native species, they can wreak havoc on local species and ecosystems.

Officials say that the damage swine cause in New Mexico is more devastating now that the state is heading into a third straight year of drought. The pigs are so smart that they have figured out how to break the floats in stock tanks that hold water for livestock so water will continue to flow into their mud baths, leaving less water for ranchers’ animals.

The federal government has decided to make New Mexico Ground Zero for a joint federal-state crusade against feral pigs. Wildlife Services (WS), an arm of the federal U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that private parties can hire to kill animals, is so serious about this battle that, for the first time, it is teaming up with a state government to eradicate the swine. WS has earmarked $1 million in taxpayer dollars for this endeavor.

The government will deploy and evaluate a number of tactics against the pigs to learn which are most effective in particular circumstances. They will focus on using helicopters to track pigs across large areas. Helicopters are also key to aerial gunning, or shooting the animals from the air. Other popular killing methods are trapping, snaring, shooting and using trained dogs.

Officials have to work fast because wild pigs learn fast. They have figured out how to foil a variety of traps. They hide out during daylight, frustrating their would-be killers who cannot locate them. Officials rely on “Judas pigs” to lead them to families of swine: They trap and shoot an entire family except for one sow, whom they radio collar and follow as she searches for a new family to join. When she finds one, they repeat the process.

Reducing the wild pig population by killing individuals is a losing battle. Estimates indicate that people must kill 70% of a local population just to stay even because pigs produce large litters year-round. That would mean killing 3,500,000 across the country every year just to keep the population from increasing. It is hard to imagine the government pulling off an even larger bloodbath every year in an attempt to reduce the population.


Related Stories:

The U.S. is Spending Your Money Killing Innocent Wildlife

San Diego County’s Wild Pig Problem

Texas Approves Aerial Hunting of Pigs and Coyotes


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Photo credit: iStockphoto

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3:24AM PDT on Jun 1, 2013

sad news but thanks for sharing

11:12PM PDT on Apr 14, 2013

Oh, and yes, the babies are cute. But like all hogs, they grow up. And the adults are decidedly NOT cute. Using the baby as an illustration was a sneaky thing to do, too, to get people feeling sympathy for these dangerous and destructive animals.

11:11PM PDT on Apr 14, 2013

Anyone who thinks there is a "humane alternative" to destroying the wild hogs has never had to deal with them. And yes, unlike wolves and coyotes, they DO pose a threat to people as well. They would happily knock you down and eat you. And that's a fact.

4:34PM PDT on Apr 14, 2013

There must be a better way of dealing with this!

6:24PM PDT on Apr 8, 2013

There must be a humane solution, we spay and neuter cats and dogs...

4:45PM PDT on Apr 7, 2013

Recently, beavers were burnt when they built a dam trying to prevent an oil spill from becoming even bigger. They inadvertently helped humans, but what do humans do to animals in return? They kill them and encroach upon their environments. It's time we looked at more humane plans to prevent dangerouis encounters with those just trying to survive!

11:25AM PDT on Apr 7, 2013

These pigs don't just cause an inconvenience, they eat EVERYTHING! They have been known to eat fawn! Anything that they can catch and kill they will eat. They are heavy vectors for disease and cause large amounts of erosion.

Even before they impact society they wreak havoc on their surrounding ecosystem; water, soil, plants, trees, animals, and air quality. Going from there they make the claims (emphasize claims) against wolves look like a splinter; they are incredibly aggressive towards humans, they spread disease to farm animals they don't eat, and they destroy equipment and fencing.

These animals are comparable to humans in their rate of destruction. They are one of the very few animals that need to be humanely removed and highly controlled. Unfortunately, no one wants to hunt them for food because the chance of tainted meat is as high as the rate of disease transfer to the hunter.

6:18AM PDT on Apr 7, 2013

This is very sad news.
we believe that there should be some solutions rather than killing them.
These are living animals, you know.

7:34PM PDT on Apr 6, 2013

You can't just kill something when it's causing a inconvenience.

1:15PM PDT on Apr 5, 2013

This whole situation is just crazy. People should not have even been allowed to relocate them to hunt them in the first place. I don’t know what should be done, but killing the pigs because stupid people can’t control the situation they created is just wrong.

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