New Wild Boar Hunting Regulations for Pennsylvania

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In response to a recent state Supreme Court ruling, Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe directed staff to begin developing regulations to allow the incidental taking of wild boars during certain hunting seasons. The draft regulations are expected to be ready for the Board of Game Commissioners to consider as part of its Jan. 29 meeting agenda.

"On Dec. 27, a Supreme Court ruling, in effect, classified wild boars as 'protected mammals,'" Roe said. "Prior to the court's ruling, the Game Commission had no regulatory oversight or authority for wild boars. Now, we are seeking to clarify and appropriately regulate the protection of wild boars that was put in place by the court."

Roe stressed that wild boars are not native to the Commonwealth and are classified as an invasive species by the Pennsylvania Invasive Species Council.

"Wild boars found in the state are either domestic pigs, Eurasian wild boars, descendants of European and Asian hogs, or hybrids of these species that have escaped or been released," Roe said. "They should not be confused with the javelina, or collared peccary, which is native to the southwestern and southern U.S. and northern Mexico.

"Wild boars may weigh more than 400 pounds and are very prolific; they can produce litters of 8 to 12 young and can have two litters per year. They are extremely destructive to crops, wildlife habitat and the environment, and they are a danger to wildlife and domestic animals and a threat to the pork industry, especially since they are carriers of diseases and parasites that can infect livestock, wildlife and humans."

Roe noted that wild boars root and wallow, which destroys wildlife habitats. Destruction includes erosion along waterways and wetlands and the loss of native plants. Additionally, wild boars compete for food with deer, bears, turkeys, squirrels and many other birds and mammals. They are predators of small mammals and deer fawns as well as ground-nesting birds such as turkeys, ovenbirds and grouse including their nests and young.

Breeding populations are believed to currently exist in only Bedford and Cambria counties, where pregnant females and young have recently been seen and killed. Damage caused by feral hogs to wildlife, habitat and property has been reported in the southwest, southcentral and northeast regions of the state. Two additional counties, Montgomery and Warren, have unconfirmed sightings of young and/or pregnant sows.

While no feral hogs in Pennsylvania have tested positive for any infectious diseases as yet, feral hogs are known to carry 18 viral diseases, 10 of which can infect people; and 10 bacterial diseases, all of which cause disease in humans. Feral hogs are reservoirs for numerous parasites that can affect people, pets, livestock or wildlife.

As wild boars were not considered "wildlife" prior to the court's ruling, Roe said that hunters had been permitted to take them without regard to state hunting laws or regulations. However, with the ruling in place, wild boars are protected and may not be killed until the Game Commission takes action to implement a regulation to allow such action.

Roe also noted that the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Pennsylvania Pork Producers Council are sponsoring research in Pennsylvania. The Wildlife Services Division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and the Pennsylvania Game Commission are collaborating to trap wild boars and collect blood and tissue samples. Wild boars captured as part of these surveillance programs are not returned to the wild, they are humanely dispatched.

A Pennsylvania task force also has been established to locate feral hog populations and help address the concerns caused by their presence. The task force consists of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the PennAg Industry Association, the Pennsylvania Game Commission, Penn State University, the Pennsylvania Audubon Society and the Pennsylvania Pork Producers Council.