The plot reads like a B-rated horror movie. Millions of vicious, quickly-reproducing feral hogs are taking over, and nothing we do seems to be stopping them.
But this is in fact the harsh reality facing many Americans who are struggling to deal with the onerous invasive species.
There are more than 5 million wild hogs in America, spread across nearly every state. The wild swine has been a constant pain in the neck of ranchers, farmers, and property owners throughout the country, costing at estimated $1.5 million in damages each year.
Domestic hogs were first introduced by Spanish explorers in the 1500s, and those that escaped have become practically a species of their own, weighing up to 300 pounds or more, sprouting dark coarse hair, and growing long sharp tusks.
Wild hogs can damage agriculture, digging up and damaging crops like potatoes, corn, and melons. They’ve also been known to root in golf courses, roads, and gardens and befoul watering holes. They also eat native species to near-extinction, and spread disease to people, domestic animals, and wildlife.
When confronted by people or pets, they become angry and difficult to stop, charging and mercilessly goring their victim with their tusks. Many hog hunters even carry a backup weapon in case their first bullet fails to stop an enraged hog.
The wild pigs also breed like rabbits. “If a feral hog produces a dozen piglets, 13 survive,” goes an old joke, but the truth is not far off. The hogs are able to breed at just six months old, and can birth a litter of six sows more than once per year.
Governments have openly encouraged killing feral hogs. In Texas, for example, hunters can kill as many as they can, at any time, anywhere, by any means.
Americans love to hunt, and they love their pork, but the approach nevertheless appears to be failing at making a dent in hog populations.
As a supplement, certain businesses and government programs have sprung up solely for the purpose of removing hogs from properties where they are wreaking havoc. Hunters have also gotten creative to harvest as many hogs as possible, shooting them from airborne helicopters.
Trained dogs, or even a “Judas pig” equipped with a radio collar are sometimes needed to locate and destroy the wild hogs. But even that doesn’t seem to be enough. The animals are smart, and have learned to avoid traps or hide from approaching hunters.
In Texas, which has more hogs than any other state, the government spends $7 million annually to terminate hogs, but a recent study found that barring greater efforts, their numbers are expected to triple in the next five years.
A sweeping new national program by the U.S. Department of Agriculture seeks to stablize the population of wild hogs within the next decade, although overrun states like Texas will be the last on their list, in order to effectively manage the pig’s reproduction.
Like many a horror movie, the victims of the hog invasion may be on their own for a while.