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  • Pigging Out

    Posted by James R. Rummel on December 26th, 2008 (All posts by )

    Dan from Madison recently wrote a post discussing how wild predators, once unknown in cities and towns, are now making their homes in urban areas.

    The subject that seemed to interest most people was how feral hog populations are also spreading. They are dangerous and destructive animals, and I firmly believe that keeping their numbers down is a matter of public safety.

    The Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Study has a fascinating map available on their website. It shows the areas of the country where feral swine populations exist.

    The map by itself doesn’t show how quickly the animals have spread, but you can get an idea of that by taking a look at these three earlier maps.

    Notice, if you will, that California had only minor infestations of feral swine back in 1988. By 2004, however, wild pigs could be found all throughout the state. I think this is due to how hunting is generally perceived there. Although necessary for wildlife habitat preservation and the continued health of game animal populations, it appears to me that the activity is denounced by most people living in California as a terrible and savage practice.

    My home state of Ohio has a page devoted to wild boar, along with a detailed map showing the distribution of wild swine in the state. It is legal to harvest wild boar year round here, either by a landowner on their own property or by someone with any valid hunting license. Purchase a license to hunt pheasant and come home with a few hundred pounds of pork. Num num!

    Although I have eaten my fill of various cuts from wild boar many times, I have never tried bacon made from a feral pig. I think that will be my next hunting project.

    (Don’t forget that photos of wildlife observed in urban settings can be found at Subdivision Wildlife, and they are now accepting your personal photos.)


    21 Responses to “Pigging Out”

    1. Jonathan Says:

      Thanks for the link.

    2. Dan from Madison Says:

      Good post. I notice that there don’t seem to be too many areas in the colder climates where they can be found – Ohio and a tiny part of Nebraska seem to be the coldest climates they are in as of now. I wonder if this is because they just die in the zero degree cold up here or if they just haven’t made it this far, sort of like cougars. Obviously the cougar can handle the cold or there wouldn’t be so many in South Dakota, but I just don’t know about the wild boars.

      Tasty indeed! I need to see if these can be harvested year ’round here in Wisco just in case. I might have to get a bigger freezer. And a .338 win mag.

    3. ElamBend Says:

      Great article about swine in German urban areas and the sociological issues faced by those charged with culling the population:

      I covered it here:

    4. Dan from Madison Says:

      Argh I can’t believe that they feed the pigs in Berlin. Feeding wild animals is the recipe for failure over and over and over…

    5. Phil Fraering Says:

      That map has to be somewhat inaccurate; I doubt the wild hog population respects the border between California and Oregon to the extent the map suggests.

    6. Ginny Says:

      Feral hogs are fairly popular game here. Before class, I heard one of my students telling his friends about hunting them down with his pitbulls. (This was not his only story I’d just as soon not heard.)

      My oldest daughter was courted all through junior high & high school by the rabbi’s son; he would give us the ones he shot. (The reason in part was that his father said he couldn’t bring it into their house. The relationship didn’t work out; it always seemed, however, that he did have one of the basics down – proving he’d be a good provider.)

    7. James R. Rummel Says:

      “That map has to be somewhat inaccurate; I doubt the wild hog population respects the border between California and Oregon to the extent the map suggests.”

      It isn’t that the map is inaccurate, but that it is incomplete.

      If you click on the link leading to the SCWDS website, you will find that it is an agency that has an official relationship with 15 southeastern states. Kansas is the farthest west.

      So they don’t get info from the majority of the state agencies in our country, but they do get statistics from Federal sources. If a state shares wildlife info with Washington, then it will appear on the map.

      I suspect that the respective wildlife management agencies in Texas and California work closely with the Feds, while the states which don’t have any data tend to keep to themselves.


    8. Obloodyhell Says:

      > “That map has to be somewhat inaccurate; I doubt the wild hog population respects the border between California and Oregon to the extent the map suggests.”

      MMM, hunting is also probably a much more acceptable behavior in Oregon than in Cali. That might have an effect, as well as the reporting issues suggested above.

    9. JaimeRoberto Says:

      My father does his part to keep the pig population down in California. So much so, that I’m tired of eating pig every time I visit my parents. He hunts on private lands and the price is high, about $500 per trip. I suspect that the cost is a bigger reason for the increase in population than people’s attitudes toward hunting. While we may have fewer hunters as a percentage of population, we still have a lot of hunters.

    10. ElamBend Says:

      I agree. Of course, I feel the same way about feeding pigeons.

    11. Jay Manifold Says:

      I have heard rumors of feral hogs in Jeff Davis County, TX, where I own property. This is consistent with the NFSMS map James links in the post (see the sideways-teardrop-shaped area southeast of El Paso). Possibly stupid question: does this include javelina or not?

    12. George Says:

      Jay, Javelinas are a completely separate species.

      In Texas, hunting feral pigs is allowed any time of year and is strongly encouraged. Texas Parks and Wildlife writes: “Is the meat good to eat? Yes, meat from feral hogs is extremely tasty and much leaner than penraised pork”. Very few restrictions on killing them, but restrictions on moving live trapped pigs may exist to control disease. Aerial gunning from helecopter is allowed with proper permits in some parts of Texas. One problem with hunting feral pigs is the dead animals are large and difficult to transport out of their preferred brushy habitat.

    13. Doug Says:

      OOPS! Sorry, I thought you said “federal swine.” My Bad

    14. Ed Nutter Says:

      Looking at the first map linked to, I suspect Oregon may be under reporting. Either that or feral pigs have an unusual degree of respect for state borders.

      Or perhaps the marijuana growers keep them under control.

    15. James R. Rummel Says:

      “Possibly stupid question: does this include javelina or not?”

      As George pointed out, javelina are a separate species that are significantly smaller than wild hogs. But they can be even more destructive since they travel in packs, and they are so mean and aggressive that they cannot be domesticated. Take on one javelina and the whole group might just swarm you to save their buddy.

      Are they included in the map? I have no idea. It would make sense to toss them in there because their lifestyle is almost exactly that of feral swine.


    16. KenB Says:

      George is correct that feral hog hunting is legal in Texas all year. The problem I have encountered apparently arises from USDA regulations. Most meat processing plants won’t take hogs, I am told, because federal regulations prevent storing hogs in the same cooler with beef. I recently had to dump two hogs back on the land on which I shot them, because no processor would take them and the day was warm and getting warmer.

    17. Jay Manifold Says:

      The javelina I’ve encountered have consistently failed to live up to their fearsome reputation (I’ve seen them wandering through the parking lot at the lodge up in the Chisos Basin at Big Bend NP, letting people approach to within a few feet, and doing nothing more than grunting and scurrying away), though I suppose getting between a mother and her offspring would be a Bad Idea.

      Indeed, my original question was predicated on their having similar, if not virtually identical, behavior to that of feral swine (though it might differ slightly inasmuch as javelina are tremendously nearsighted). Looking at the map again, though, I doubt that the Texan portion of it includes javelina, simply because my understanding of their range is that it covers the entire Rio Grande Valley as well as the trans-Pecos.

    18. Mitch H. Says:

      That map is very, very incomplete. It looks like Pennsylvania isn’t reporting at all, which is incorrect, as you can see in this thread from 2006-2007. Locally here in Central PA, we’ve been wondering the last year or so when the wild boar will finish making their way eastward into Centre County from their current breeding grounds west and north of the Logan Valley.

    19. Kirsten Says:

      They’re popping up in NY state. A local community paper south of Syracuse ran an article a couple of weeks ago about a hunter taking a 690 pound boar on the second day of deer season. The article says the hams were 60 pounds each and the pork chops were “as big as dinner plates.”

    20. Mike H Says:

      Although I have eaten my fill of various cuts from wild boar many times, I have never tried bacon made from a feral pig. I think that will be my next hunting project.

      I would strongly advise against eating feral hogs. Unlike boar, they have little natural immunity to wild diseases and tend to be filthy animals with all kinds of nasty infections. It would be like hunting and eating sewer rat just because you do the same with squirrels from time to time.

      They are very intelligent and clever and make for good sport, but leave it at that.

    21. Shannon Love Says:

      Mike H,

      Unlike boar, they have little natural immunity to wild diseases and tend to be filthy animals with all kinds of nasty infections.

      I don’t think this the case. Feral hogs are largely descended from the semi-wild hogs which people used to let roam free in the woods well up to the latter part of the 1800’s. They bear little resemblance to the domesticated and well bred pigs of that you would find on a farm today. Moreover, the selection pressures due to microbes are ferocious. Hogs that could not resist infections as well as natural counterparts would rapidly die out. Long horn cattle, for example, are a feral breed but their meat is no more dangerous than any other beef.

      The danger of eating pigs in general is that they are biologically very similar to humans much more so than any other meat animal wild or domesticated. This makes it easy for diseases to jump from them to humans.

      I think the regular rules of game hunting i.e. only eat healthy looking animals and the normal rules for handling pork would provide sufficient protection.