Two female piglets surviving from a litter born two years ago can be responsible for the birth of 1,777 pigs in that period of time. Think about that for a minute. Two in two years equals nearly 1800 pigs.
Unbelievable? Not according to Walter Cotton who spoke to a group of concerned hunters/property owners recently at a feral pig seminar in Ruston. Cotton works with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the Monroe District Office. This meeting was made possible by Trailblazer RC&D in Ruston.
“There are two types of landowners in Louisiana; those that have hogs now and those that will”, said Cotton.
First, the biology of our feral pig population is sobering to say the least. Some of the statistics and facts Cotton presented the group in attendance included the following.
Feral pigs are the most prolific large mammal in North America.
Sows sexually mature at the age of 6 months.
Sows can have two litters per year averaging 4-8 young.
Feral pigs have few, if any, natural predators other than humans.
Among the damages these animals can cause, some of the more troublesome and costly ones include damage to crops, pastures, food plots, lawns, water contamination, native plant species, erosion, levees, aviation (aircraft strikes), roads, saplings, aggression toward humans, disease, fragile marsh habitat, competition with wildlife, predation of livestock and wildlife, including deer fawns, ground nesting birds and alligator nestings.
Diseases? Over 25 diseases can be carried by feral pigs. Most are not transmittable to humans but some are. Therefore, it is mandatory that when shooting and then handling wild hogs, gloves and boots should be worn, never eat, drink or smoke while handling one. Hands and equipment must be thoroughly washed after dressing a feral pig and while feral pork makes good eating, cooking the meat thoroughly is important.
What can be done to control these pests? Cotton suggests a variety of systems including cage traps, snares, shooting, dogs, and fencing. However, it is important to note that in order to keep a population static with no annual increase, 70% of the population must be removed annually.
Several companies, including Jager Pro, Goin, Tusk Innovations and Boarbusters, advertise products and devices to trap pigs. But the most ingenious traps I have seen online are the types that can be triggered from the comfort of your easy chair at home. Bait is placed inside the big cage and pigs begin to feel comfortable. Sometimes the whole group of pigs running together enter the cage. Utilizing remote control technology, a signal is sent to your cell phone, a signal is sent and the cage door drops, capturing them all.
These devices are understandably rather expensive but groups of hunting clubs or property owners can jointly purchase a package that can be moved from club to club.
Less expensive systems will work, such as small traps, but the potential of capturing large numbers is diminished.
Cotton suggests that large sows followed by young pigs should be the first ones targeted. “Boars are not nearly as important to the overall population,” he said.
The feral pig problem is growing and there are no easy answers.
“Many millions of dollars have gone into studying hog damage and diseases. It’s time,” says Cotton, “to reduce hog damage and hog populations.”