Recently, state wildlife authorities captured a number of destructive feral hogs in Faribault County, Minnesota. On the afternoon of September 23, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources got a call about some animals. The day after the pigs were found, conservation officers captured a few adults and some piglets east of Blue Earth. They turned the animals over to the division of Fish and Wildlife for testing, according to Southern Minnesota News.
Dan Ruiter, a DNR Information Officer, told news sources that the feral hogs had escaped from a stockyard and went unnoticed. The small size of the piglets suggests breeding had taken place while they were missing. North America is not home to any native species of feral hogs, and if left unchecked, they can wreak havoc on crops and water sources. Disease is also a significant concern when it comes to swine. They can easily spread diseases such as pseudorabies, brucellosis, and tuberculosis.
Ruiter says it was correct for the member of the public to report the hogs. In fact, they may have helped the community avoid disaster. “They kept a problem from potentially becoming a much larger issue,” he explained. Possessing or releasing feral swine in Minnesota is illegal and could result in a misdemeanor conviction or fines.
Why feral hogs are such a problem in the United States
The population of feral pigs in the United States and Canada is growing, and as of 2013, was estimated to be 6 million. These animals cause billions of dollars in damage to property and crops every year, leading to significant economic losses. In addition, their ecological impact may be equally problematic, with 26% lower vertebrate species richness found in forest fragments they have invaded.
Feral pigs damage crops and destroy other animals’ habitats by rooting through the ground for food with their snouts and tusks. These hogs will eat anything they come across, which makes them a threat to both plant life and other creatures living in the same area. Feral hogs compete fiercely with game animals such as deer and turkeys for resources, putting these species at risk of extinction.
The animals play host to at least 34 pathogens that can spread to livestock, wildlife, and humans. For commercial pig farmers, there is great concern that some of the hogs could act as a vector for swine fever to return to America. Feral hogs also pose an immediate threat to non-biosecure domestic pig facilities due to their likeliness to carry and spread pathogens – particularly the protozoan Sarcocystis.
Feral hogs have a higher reproductive rate than many other animals, which often leads to them out-competing others for food and resources. For example, in the autumn months, feral pigs compete directly with the American black bear for tree mast (the fruit of forest trees). These are likely reasons that invasive populations of feral pigs reduce diversity wherever they establish themselves.