Wild hogs are in Tyrrell and other northeastern counties

Published 8:54 am Tuesday, September 22, 2020

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(Adapted from a report by Jason Allen, NC Wildlife Resources Commission.)

Feral swine, also referred to as wild boar and feral hogs, are defined as any free-ranging member of the species Sus scrofa, which also includes all domestic pig breeds.

Swine are not native to North America or North Carolina. “Old world” swine were brought to North Carolina by early explorers as a reliable source of meat. In later years, free-range husbandry practices, along with intentional releases, reportedly gave North Carolina more pigs than any other colony in the New World.

Additional releases over the years, popularization of “boar” hunting, and decades of protection as a game animal (1979-2011) led to expanding populations across the state.

All domestic pig breeds, when allowed to roam wild, can quickly revert to the habits and physical characteristics of their wild ancestors.

Feral swine cause significant damage to plant communities and wildlife habitat during rooting activities while they search of food, and directly impact native species by preying on ground nesting birds and white-tailed deer fawns.

On agricultural and developed lands, feral swine cause an estimated $1.5 billion per year in damages to crops, landscaping, and cultural sites across the U.S.

Feral swine also carry a variety of diseases that pose substantial risk to livestock, wildlife, humans, and pets.

Due to these factors, they are considered invasive and undesirable as free-ranging animals on North Carolina’s landscape.

Illegal releases continue to supplement the growing population, making control of these destructive animals challenging.

During periods of economic hardship, people relied on these pigs as a food resource. This and other factors helped keep free-range pig populations in check throughout the first half of the 20th century.

Feral swine are highly adaptable animals that can live in urban, suburban and rural areas from the mountains to the sea. A Wildlife Commission maps shows concentrations in Tyrrell County mainly in the Frying Pan, Gum Neck, and Kilkenny sections.

Feral swine are opportunistic feeders and are omnivorous, meaning that they will eat most anything. Insects, worms and a wide range of vegetative matter are common in a feral pig’s diet. Larger animals are also fair game, like snakes, turtles and lizards, as well as the young of ground nesting birds like quail and turkey, and the occasional deer fawn.

Feral swine will avoid people when possible. Although confrontations are very infrequent, interactions between wild pig and people are reported annually. Occasionally, humans inadvertently walk between a sow and her litter and the sow reacts to protect her young.

Hunting pigs with dogs that are used to bay or corner a pig can also create a potentially dangerous situation. Totally unprovoked attacks outside of these two scenarios are extremely rare and seldom occur.

Given a choice, wild pigs usually flee rather than fight. Clapping your hands or making other loud noises will usually scare the pigs away.

Encounters with feral swine usually happen through the damage they leave behind. A group of pigs, called a sounder, can root through and damage large areas overnight. Swine disturbance around stream and river edges can lead to erosion and water contamination.

Feral swine also carry at least 30 diseases and nearly 40 parasites that can affect humans, pets, livestock, and other wildlife. Diseases like brucellosis, pseudorabies, and African swine fever are some of the concerns for wildlife managers when feral swine and people or livestock interact.

Due to the negative impacts of feral swine on agriculture, human health, and wildlife health, and their non-native status, the NC Wildlife Resources Commission supports removal and places few restrictions on their take from private lands. Trapping is the most practical and effective method of removing feral swine from an area.

Additional information as well as feral swine regulations can be found at ncwildlife.org/feralswine.

If you have seen feral swine or signs of feral swine damage, you are asked to contact the NC Wildlife Helpline at: 866-318-2401.