Feral Pig Numbers Increasing

Send by email Printer-friendly version Share this

With the population of feral pigs increasing across Wisconsin, state wildlife officials are urging the public to report sightings of the animals and are asking hunters to help eliminate them from the landscape by shooting them if they encounter them in the field while pursuing other game.

Feral pigs are also known as wild pigs, wild hogs, wild boars, European wild boars, Russian wild boars, or razorbacks. They are found in as many as 23 states. In some states they are descendents of European swine released by Spanish and European explorers. In others, they are descendents of escaped or released domestic swine or even hybrids of European and domestic swine.

Feral pigs have been documented in Wisconsin since at least 2000, but they have appeared in many additional areas in the past couple of years and have now been found in at least 29 counties. Biologists say the feral pigs showing up in the state are likely the result of unintentional escapes from domestic swine facilities, releases from game farms, or illegal stocking.

“Feral pigs are exotic, non-native wild animals that pose significant threats to both the environment and to agricultural operations,” according to Bryan Woodbury a wildlife biologist with the state Department of Natural Resources. “These free roaming pigs can be found across a wide variety of habitats and are highly destructive because of the rooting they do in search of food.”

Rooting by feral pigs has resulted in damage to agricultural and forest lands and because they spend much of their time “wallowing” near water, they can cause serious soil erosion and water pollution. Habitat changes due to feral pigs include: destruction of plants; changes in plant composition; reduced regeneration of tree seedlings; alteration of soil structure; and increased spread of invasive weeds.

They also can have a negative impact on native wildlife species, such as white-tailed deer and black bear. They can consume large volumes of the roots, berries, fruits, acorns and other nuts also sought by native wildlife. Wild pigs are efficient predators with an acute sense of smell, and they will eat anything they can catch including reptiles, amphibians, fawns and bird eggs. Ground nesting birds like grouse, woodcock, turkeys, and songbirds are especially vulnerable.

Boars travel between family groups in search of receptive sows. The dominant male mates first. The less dominant males may mate after the dominant boar is finished breeding.

Left un-checked, the population of feral pigs can grow rapidly. Feral pigs can mate any time of the year, but generally mate during two peak breeding seasons: one in winter and another in early summer. Under optimal conditions, sows can begin breeding at 6 months of age, and produce up to four litters per year with each litter consisting of 4 to 12 piglets. The young grow rapidly and are weaned in about three months. The offspring disperse after a year with their mother and are usually sexually mature by a year and a half.

Biologists consider feral pigs as potential disease reservoirs that can pose a threat to domestic livestock, pets and even human health and safety. Pigs are known to carry a number of diseases including swine brucellosis, pseudorabies and leptospirosis.

“Our goal is to aggressively remove these animals from the landscape and we are encouraging any hunters who encounter them to shoot them on sight,” Woodbury said. Status of Feral Pigs in Wisconsin

Feral pigs are considered unprotected wild animals and may be hunted year-round. The only day they cannot be hunted with a gun is the Friday before the nine-day gun deer hunting season. Also, hunting hours are the same as deer during the nine-day season. During the rest of the year, there are no hunting hour restrictions.

There is no bag limit on feral pigs. Landowners may shoot feral pigs on their own property without a hunting license. Anyone else can shoot a feral pig as long as they possess a valid small game license and landowner permission if they are on private land.

Hunters presented with an opportunity to shoot a feral pig need to remember: A small game or archery, or sports or patrons license is needed to shoot a wild hog anywhere other than on property you own. On your own property a license is not needed.

* Hunting with firearms is not allowed on the Friday before the nine-day gun deer season.

* It is illegal to place bait or feed for hunting feral pigs.

* Always practice the “Four Rules of Firearm Safety.”

* A light may be used to shoot wild pigs but only at the point of kill; similar to what is allowed for hunting raccoon at night.

* Wear rubber gloves when butchering or field dressing. Cook meat thoroughly.

* Take any legal opportunity to shoot a feral pig. They can be unpredictable when and where they show up. Hunters may not easily get a second chance.

* (Tip) When shooting a pig, aim for the front shoulder or slightly ahead of the front shoulder. The vital area of a pig is more forward than a deer.

* Anyone who shoots a feral pig is asked to alert a DNR wildlife biologist – if possible they will come out to gather blood and tissue samples for disease testing.

* Anyone who observes a wild pig but who does not wish to shoot it, is asked to consider finding someone else to do it – Wisconsin native species and our habitat will benefit.

If you know of someone doing any of the following illegal activities, contact your conservation warden immediately – you can leave an anonymous message at 1-800-TIP-WDNR (1-800-847-9367) or dial #367 by cellular phone (free for U.S. Cellular customers).

* It is illegal to operate a captive feral pig hunting facility in the State of Wisconsin.

* It is illegal to hunt a captive feral pig inside a captive hunting facility in Wisconsin.

* It is illegal to stock or release to the wild feral pigs for hunting purposes or to release pigs into the wild.

“Please respect landowner’s rights,” reminds Woodbury. “The DNR can provide information on where to hunt feral pigs on public lands in your area but will not give out information on where to hunt on private property.

“Get permission before accessing any private property and that includes retrieving fatally shot animals,” he said.

A fact sheet on feral pigs in Wisconsin including a list of counties where feral pigs have been sighted or killed is available on the DNR Web site.