According to studies by Dr. Thomas J. Holt, FDACS, there is an estimated population of about a million wild hogs in Florida. Wild hogs are also found in 67 counties throughout the state. All told, in the U.S., there are about 6 million wild hogs currently residing in 39 states. The largest populations are located in California, Florida, Hawaii and Texas.
Like many wild animals residing in the Sunshine State, wild hogs are not native to Florida. It is believed that colonists first introduced domestic hogs to the area, or they were brought over by the Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto, as early as 1539. These early hogs were a major food source for the early settlers. However, when Eurasian wild boars were later brought to the states for hunting purposes, domestic hogs that were free range, or escaped from pens, wound up interbreeding with these Eurasian hogs and ultimately producing the wild hogs we see today.
Wild hogs do play a role in the ecological balancing act. They are a food source for panthers, alligators, crocodiles, black bears, and bobcats. Wild hogs also provide good hunting opportunities, and many who hunt them enjoy the excellent taste, as it is leaner meat than pen-raised pork. At many finer restaurants, you will find “wild boar” on the menu.
The problem with wild hogs is that their population is exploding and causing damage to the community, including the agricultural community. Females as young as six to nine months can produce two to three litters per year with an average of four to five piglets born each time, so the issue is quickly compounding itself. According to studies conducted by the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, wild hogs cause about $300 in damage per hog per year. In Florida alone, that comes to a total of about $3 million in damage per year, all due to wild hogs.
“Wild hogs tear up the land and pollute the waters, as they carry waterborne pathogens. They wreak havoc on seepage slope wetlands, and feast on reptiles, amphibians and endangered species, including sea turtle eggs,” explained Tony Duffiney, assistant state director, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Wildlife Services.
One of the missions of APHIS is to carry out wildlife damage management activities. APHIS studies the patterns and behaviors of wild hogs, and develops best practice management practices to help control them.
So what can you do to keep the wild hogs a bay?
“If you really want to keep them out of your yard, fence in your yard,” said Tony Young, media relations coordinator for Division of Hunting & Game Management, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Keep in mind that wild hogs look for food and water sources, they are omnivorous (eat plants and animals), and hang out where there is cover to hide and where they won’t be disturbed.
Another thing you can do is hunt or trap wild hogs. “You may do so year-round, day or at night with a light,” said Young who added that no license or permit is needed.
However, if you do hunt wild hogs, remember that these animals carry parasites and diseases, some of which can be transmitted to people. “One such disease for hunters to be concerned with is swine brucellosis,” said Young, who added that FDACS requires a permit for moving or transporting wild hogs in order to keep them from being released where they are not wanted.
The FWC advises hunters who field-dress or handle wild hog carcasses to take extra precautions in order to protect themselves from exposure to brucellosis and other diseases. For example, using latex or rubber gloves when handling the carcass or raw meat, wearing long sleeves, using eye protection and covering any scratches, open wounds or lesions.
It’s also important to avoid direct contact with blood, reproductive organs and fecal matter. Furthermore, be sure to clean and disinfect knives, the cleaning area, clothing and any other exposed surfaces, and make sure hands are washed frequently with soap and water. Wild hog should be cooked thoroughly to 170 degrees. The meat can be cooked, smoked, or even turned into tasty sausage.
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