Wild hogs — referred to by the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension office as “the most prolific large mammal on the face of the earth” — can have multiple litters a year. Adults can reach weights of 300 pounds and more, though 200 pounds is average.
The press release came out at about 4:30 on a Friday, presumably not by accident.
Sometimes, when companies want to announce bad news, they send out word at the very end of the work week, so as to keep the media from getting any additional details. It’s fairly common practice.
In this case, state officials seemingly timed their announcement to minimize interference.
On Jan. 8, the Pennsylvania Game Commission announced a ban on the shooting of feral swine – also called wild hogs or boars — in the wild throughout Butler County. It remains in effect until further notice.
The idea is to give professional trappers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture a jump on collecting hogs that escaped from a high-fence hunting operation. Trapping is “considered the most effective way to eradicate this nuisance animal species,” commission executive director Matt Hough said in the release.
Simply letting the hogs go is not an option.
“Feral swine are not native to Pennsylvania, but sometimes are found roaming freely on public and private lands,” the commission noted. Those animals can damage “the habitat upon which Pennsylvania’s native wildlife depends.”
They’re certainly behind a lot of troubles elsewhere.
In a number of states, especially across the South, feral swine populations have exploded. Like coyotes here, their numbers have blossomed even in the face of unrelenting hunting pressure.
Wildlife officials say that’s a problem, as the hogs not only do all kinds of agricultural damage, but also compete with – and sometimes outcompete – species like white-tailed deer, black bears and turkeys for food. Some studies have estimated the devastation they cause annually is in the billions.
Still, some hunters have taken a liking to them. Guide services operate throughout other parts of the country, and many high-fence operations offer hog hunts, as the animals are supposedly easy and cheap to raise.
There are even magazines and manufacturers devoted to hog hunting. Some of what’s out there is really high-end stuff, too.
Just this month, for example, TrackingPoint came out with what it’s calling the 300HO – the HO being for HogOut – a “precision-guided semi-auto firearm.”
“As you pull the trigger the target is acquired, tracked, ranged, and measured for velocity. By the time you complete your squeeze the hog is inescapably captured and instantly eliminated,” a press release reads.
Think you want one? Be prepared to pay. Prices start at $12,995.
Here in Pennsylvania, hunters can shoot any swine they come across in the wild. But commission officials have always been careful to refer to that take as “shooting” rather than “hunting.” They don’t want to suggest that having hogs to hunt might be a good thing.
They’ve also said that hunting is not effective in controlling hog numbers. They point to research suggesting that when pressured, the animals just produce more and larger litters to account for predation of any kind.
That’s also why neither the news release nor Regis Senko, the commission’s northwest region information and education supervisor, would make any reference to where in Butler County the hogs are on the loose. They don’t want to draw hunters who might interfere with the trappers.
“It’s the kind of thing that can be counterproductive,” Senko said.
So the hog trapping will go on, possibly through the start of spring gobbler season. Whenever it wraps up, the commission will announce that, Hough added.