This is why no one connected with managing wildlife or producing crops wants them here.
Wild hogs, that is.
Officials with the Pennsylvania Game Commission and U.S. Department of Agriculture have spent a fair bit of time and money in recent years trying to figure out where hogs might be roaming – and reproducing – in Pennsylvania, and what can be done to eradicate them.
Why, you ask?
Consider the situation in Louisiana.
According to a new study by Louisiana State University’s AgCenter, hogs cost farmers in the state about $74 million in damages in 2013. That includes $53 million in crop damage and $21 million in non-crop losses.
About one in three farmers in the state suffered some form of hog damage last year, it added.
Worse may be yet to come.
With an estimated 500,000 hogs on the loose in Louisiana, and the population continuing to grow, “it’s a problem now, but there’s plenty of room for it to get worse,” AgCenter economist Shaun Tanger told the Associated Press.
That’s true across much of the country.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, feral swine were confined to 17 states in 1982. Now, they’re found in 41. The population is thought to be six million animals and growing, too.
The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, a nonprofit involved with agricultural activity, puts the damage they do nationwide at $1.5 billion annually.
And that’s just their impact on farming. They’re equally nasty when it comes to how they harm wildlife.
Adults can reach weights up to 400 pounds. Put a herd of animals that big together with a bunch of young and they can outcompete species like black bears, white-tailed deer, turkeys and more for wild food supplies. They can be aggressive and dangerous, as well, and are known to carry 28 diseases, 18 viral and 10 bacterial. Twenty of those can infect people, Game Commission biologist Matt Lovallo wrote in a paper published by Penn State Extension.
Here in Pennsylvania, populations of wild hogs have been confirmed in Bedford, Bradford and Fulton counties, Lovallo said. A number of other counties are home to game farms that offer shoots for hogs, though, and all of those are potential sources of hogs escaping into the wild, he added.
Researchers say hunting hasn’t proven an effective way to control the animals. They’re just too prolific, producing litters of eight to 12 once or twice a year.
Trapping has achieved some success, but it’s costly, labor intensive and difficult, they’ve added. Biologists suggest control efforts have to remove 70 to 75 percent of any population annually to keep it from growing.
The Noble Foundation funded development of what some are saying might be an answer.
The BoarBuster is a round trap that sits about four feet off the ground on legs. When hogs move under it, a wireless motion sensor camera sends an alert to a smartphone, allowing a landowner to trigger it.
The traps have caught as many as 44 hogs in one drop.
The set-up costs about $6,000, but when it was advertised earlier this year at the National Wild Turkey Federation’s annual convention, hundreds placed orders.
Perhaps it’s the answer, or at least part of it. Let’s hope.