The feral hog population has extended its borders, again, this time around booming in the borders of Virginia.
Virginia feral hogs are now becoming a common and unfortunate reality, booming in population and number.
Wild hogs have been confirmed by Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) to have breeding populations in 20 counties, and this number is growing each year. Feral hog populations are estimated to be a combined 3,000 individuals in Virginia and growing exponentially.
These animals are capable of mating at all times of the year, and have up to eight piglets within each litter. A single female can have three litters a year depending on the availability of food and cover.
To stabilize a feral hog population, hunters must remove 70% of the population every year! That's exactly as tough of a challenge as it sounds.
Feral hogs are considered to be an invasive species. As an invasive species, they can be hunted continuously throughout the year and even seven days a week with landowner permission. They are known to damage the ecosystem, as well state's agricultural enterprises.
Huntable populations of feral hogs are found in numerous counties within Virginia and the number of huntable populations has grown in the last 10 years. Feral hogs are known to be many things, but migratory is not one of them.
Biologically speaking, the randomness of the spread of the population is inconsistent with a feral hog's instinct. Increases such as these have lead VDGIF biologists to hypothesize hunters within the state are purposely transplanting hogs for the purpose of sport hunting.
Purposeful transplanting could cause an ecological disaster within the state. Feral hogs are omnivorous, which means they eat both plants and animals. Hogs are known to root for tubers and roots which can lead to the destruction of agricultural ground.
Feral hogs also eat small mammals, and have been seen killing whitetail deer fawns in the spring, when these fawns are most vulnerable.
VDGIF has formed a task force to help stop the spread of the feral hog in Virginia. The task force is educating hunters on the dangers of releasing hogs into the wild, cracking down on individuals suspected of releasing hogs, and developing new strategies to combat the spread of existing populations.
Biologists claim that eliminating demand for hog hunting may be the best strategy for reducing the current feral hog population boom.
Feral hogs nationwide cause an estimated $1.5 billion dollars a year in damage. Once populations are established, it is nearly impossible to completely eradicate them.
Only time will tell the impact feral hog populations will have on competing native species, and the ecosystem as a whole within Virginia.
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What are your thoughts on the spread on feral hog's into new states? Do you agree that rogue hunters could partially be to blame?