- Wild hogs are also known as feral hogs, wild or feral pigs, razorbacks, or wild boars.
- They are escaped domestic pigs and their descendants that live and breed in the wild.
- Wild hogs may number 9 million in the U.S. and have been spotted in 40 states.
- They do tremendous economic and ecological damage and are considered an invasive species.
Wild hogs are an invasive species that has been multiplying across the United States for centuries and now number in the millions. They do huge economic and ecological damage, carry a lot of different diseases, and can be aggressive toward people and domestic animals. States are using a variety of methods to try to get them under control, including hunting, trapping, poisoning, and sterilization. Humanely decreasing their numbers is vital to preserving the diversity of the natural environment as well as valuable farmland and other private property. Find out in this article where they came from and what is the wild boar population by state.
Where Did Wild Hogs Come From?
Wild hogs, also called feral hogs, wild or feral pigs, razorbacks, or wild boars, are escaped domestic pigs and their descendants that live and breed in the wild. Domestic pigs originated with the Eurasian wild boar, which was domesticated in ancient times independently by people groups in Europe and Asia.
Pigs were first brought to the New World by Christopher Columbus and released to multiply on islands of the West Indies to provide a food supply for future explorers. This practice continued with other explorers in the 16th-17th centuries in the West Indies and southern parts of what is today the United States. Over the centuries, domestic pigs periodically escaped from farms in the South and joined feral (wild) pig populations. Their numbers today are estimated to be as high as 9 million in the United States.
How do Wild Hogs Affect the Environment?
Animals and Plants
Pigs plow up the ground with their snouts and tusks to find food, unearthing plants and the burrows of ground-dwelling species. They are omnivorous, consuming virtually any type of plant or small animal they can catch. Pigs are also particularly devastating to ground-nesting birds, running off the adults, eating eggs, and trampling nesting grounds. They compete with deer and turkeys for some of the same food sources, causing these species to migrate away when food becomes scarce. Studies have shown that the biodiversity of lower vertebrates in forested areas infested with wild hogs is 26% lower than normal.
They also trample, root around in, and wallow in ponds and streams, polluting them for fish or for other animals to drink and introducing disease-bearing bacteria into the water that can go far downstream. In fact, feral pigs can host up to 34 diseases that livestock, wildlife, or human beings can catch from contact with them, eating their meat, or ingesting water they have polluted. Pig farmers are greatly concerned they could bring back swine flu, a respiratory infection that was finally eradicated in the United States in 1978. Fortunately, humans rarely contract this particular disease, but it can be devastating to herds of domestic pigs.
Wild hogs also do tremendous damage to farmland and other private property. They uproot and trample valuable crops in fields, destroy gardens and landscaping, and can break down or root under fences that are not electrified, allowing other animals to escape. They can be quite aggressive and are able to inflict serious injuries with their tusks and teeth. When, on occasion, they wander into the yards of rural homes, they can pose a serious danger to curious pets and children. In Texas, the state with the largest feral hog population, they cost farmers an estimated $50 million a year in damage.
Wild Hog Population by State
Reportedly, as many as 40 of the 50 United States have had sightings of feral hogs. Some states have successfully eradicated their populations, but the best estimates are that at least 28 states currently have established, breeding populations of this damaging invasive species. Estimates of the total number of wild hogs in the country vary but may range as high as 9 million.
The 10 States with Highest Feral Hog Numbers
The 10 states with the largest feral hog populations are Texas (3 million), Oklahoma (1.5 million), Louisiana (750,000), Georgia (600,000), Florida (500,000), New Mexico (500,000), South Carolina (450,000), California (400,000), Hawaii (400,000), and Alabama (250,000).
Summary of Feral Hog Numbers in All 50 States
Here’s a complete list of the wild boar population by state for all 50 states:
|47||Washington||Unknown; sighted in eastern counties|
How are States Combatting Wild Hogs?
- Information: Federal, state, and private organizations, as well as academic institutions, study wild hogs to try to understand where they are increasing or declining, and why. This can also indicate where they may be close to crossing a state border. Neighboring states can be warned and consider what eradication efforts to make.
- Fencing: Agencies and landowners install specially designed fencing to keep wild hogs out of areas. Sometimes these are electric fences or woven wire fencing with barbed wire on the bottom to prevent hogs from rooting under it.
- Hunting: Some states have established regular hunting seasons and incentivize hunters to kill hogs. Firearms and bowhunting are popular methods. Because hogs carry so many diseases, it is imperative to prepare the meat carefully.
- Trapping: This is a more efficient method of reducing populations because it is less time-intensive than hunting. Traps work without continual monitoring.
- Poisoning: This can inadvertently hurt other species. States using this method set up strict regulations.
- Sterilization: Contraceptives dispensed as feed will lower boar sperm count for 30 days. This approach does not kill the hogs, and it can be put in special feeders that other species cannot access.
Some of these methods are cringe-worthy and in some circumstances can be counter-productive. Aggressive hunting can drive populations out of remote forests toward populated areas, or into natural biomes that are even more fragile than the ones they are already damaging.
However, wild hogs are clearly a problem that requires an urgent and well-coordinated response to protect biodiversity, the rural economy, and the safety of people who live nearby.
What U.S. States Allow the Hunting of Feral Hogs?
There are a number of states that allow hunters to target feral hogs–a total of 28 in all. Of those, certain ones allow year-round hunting of them. The other states have either outlawed hunting of these beasts, or they don’t have a significant population. The states that allow feral hogs to be hunted, along with the estimated population of hogs per state, are as follows:
- Alabama (250,000)
- Arkansas (200,000)
- California (400,000)
- Florida (500,000)
- Georgia (600,000)
- Hawaii (600,000)
- Idaho (<100)
- Illinois (unknown)
- Indiana (<1,000)
- Iowa (<1,000)
- Kentucky (2,000)
- Louisiana (750,000)
- Michigan (5,000)
- Mississippi (200,000)
- New Hampshire (unknown)
- New Jersey (<1,000)
- New Mexico (500,000)
- North Carolina (100,000)
- Ohio (2,000)
- Oklahoma (1.5 million)
- Oregon (5,000)
- Pennsylvania (3,000)
- South Carolina (450,000)
- Tennessee (unknown)
- Texas (3.0 million)
- Virginia (3,000)
- West Virginia (<1,000)
- Wisconsin (<1,000)
The top 5 states considered the best for feral hog hunting due to their extreme populations are Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Georgia, and Florida.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
How many wild hogs are there in the United States?
No one is sure, but their numbers are estimated at up to 9 million.
What U.S. state has the most wild hogs?
Texas has the most wild hogs, at approximately 3 million.
How did wild hogs get to the United States?
Domestic swine were released in the New World by early explorers to create a food source for explorers and colonists who would come after them. Their numbers multiplied in the wild, with regular additions of escaped pigs from farms.
Why are wild hogs a bad thing?
They are not indigenous to North America in the wild. They damage the biodiversity of habitats by rooting up plants and eating small animals that are food sources for indigenous species. They pollute water supplies by wallowing in streams and ponds. They spread dozens of different diseases, some of which can infect people. They damage farmland and private property as they root for food. They can be aggressive and inflict serious injuries on children and pets.
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