Frequently Asked Questions
Robert A. Pierce II, Associate Extension Professor and State Wildlife and Fisheries Specialist, University of Missouri.
This series of responses to a variety of frequently asked questions has been developed to provide information to a variety of stakeholders on issues surrounding feral hogs in Missouri. In addition, this information has also been developed from research that has been conducted for the past several years by Billy Higginbotham, Extension Wildlife and Fisheries Specialist and his colleague's at Texas A&M AgriLife as well as research conducted at Mississippi State University. Additional sources of information are found at the end of this fact sheet.
What is a feral hog?
Feral hogs (or wild pigs) are not considered wildlife in Missouri as they are a non-native destructive species that can be invasive if populations are not controlled. In Missouri, a feral hog is any hog, including Russian and European wild boar, this is not identified by ear tags or other identification and is roaming freely on public or private land without the landowner's permission.
Why are feral hogs a problem?
Feral hogs destroy habitat and young wildlife. Rooting and wallowing causes soil erosion, reduces water quality, damages agricultural crops and hay fields, and destroys sensitive natural areas such as glades, fens and springs.
They forage heavily on acorns and compete directly with native species for food. They commonly eat eggs of ground-nesting birds and almost anything they encounter, including reptiles, amphibians and small mammals. They have been known to kill and eat deer fawns.
They spread diseases to people, pets, and livestock. Feral hogs are known to carry diseases such as swine brucellosis, pseudorabies, trichinosis and leptospirosis. These diseases commonly cause infertility, low milk production, and high newborn mortality in domestic animals. The domestic swine industry is currently free of these diseases, but they are endemic in feral hogs. The reintroduction of these diseases into domestic livestock populations could be devastating to the agriculture industry. Feral hogs are a vector for spreading African swine fever to domestic herds in Europe.
Feral hogs cause economic damage. Found in at least 35 states, the USDA estimates that feral swine cause approximately $1.5 billion in damages and control costs in the United States each year, with at least $800 million of this estimate due to direct damage to agriculture.
Do feral hogs compete with native wildlife?
Most wildlife species don't associate with feral hogs. The less mobile (lizards, toads, snakes) may end up being their next meal, while others (e.g., white-tailed deer) typically vacate the immediate area when wild pigs show up. Feral hogs can be competitors with native species for certain food supplies such as acorns and limit the availability of food sources for less aggressive native species.
Why can't we hunt feral hogs on public land?
Hunting is an effective tool for managing populations of wildlife. Feral hogs are not wildlife. The goal is to eliminate feral hogs, not manage them. When hunters shoot feral hogs, it complicates efforts to remove these pests. Hogs are social animals, traveling in groups called sounders. Shooting into a group of 15 hogs and killing one or two hogs, or using dogs to chase hogs, does not reduce the population; rather, these actions make trapping efforts designed at catching the entire group more difficult. Hogs are very intelligent and quickly become trap-shy and wary of baited sites. With their high reproductive rate, removing one or two hogs does not help to reduce populations. Feral hog hunting also creates incentive for illegal releases.
Why should Missourians be concerned about feral hogs?
Feral hogs cause billions of dollars of damage to agricultural operations and private property every year. They also cause extensive ecosystem damage, reproduce and spread rapidly, and carry diseases that can be transmitted to livestock, wildlife, and pets.
Feral hogs are highly adaptable animals and prolific breeders. Their numbers grow at an alarming rate. A sow can become pregnant at six months of age and can have two litters per year, averaging six piglets or more per litter. As such, they are a challenge to eliminate.
Do feral hogs carry diseases?
Approximately 30 diseases and up to 40 parasites can be carried by wild pigs. However, swine brucellosis and pseudorabies are two examples of diseases of concern. Recently while testing wild pigs for brucellosis, researchers at Texas Tech documented the presence of tularemia in a large number of hogs tested. Tularemia can be transmitted to other animals and humans, pseudorabies can be transmitted to other animals and swine brucellosis can be contracted by humans. It is recommended that whenever you are handling hogs, use proper precautions (latex gloves and eyewear). Obviously, the biggest threat is disease transmission to domestic swine herds.
How have numbers of feral hogs changed over the past 10 years?
Feral hog populations have steadily increased their range by moving northward and westward over the past 25 years. They have also gone from being a rural land/agriculture issue to also an urban/suburban issue in some locations, as well by moving into these more populated areas that are adjacent to adequate habitat which provide cover, security and food. Why the population explosion over this time? Several reasons converged to create the "perfect storm" resulting in an increased population over time.
- Indiscriminate stocking to new habitats by landowners and hunters facilitated a rapid increase— feral hogs can be trailered and released for hunting. This was done regularly, despite being illegal, in the 1970's thru the 1990's in many locations across the southern United States as well as in portions of Missouri – and the stockings were very successful at establishing wild pig populations across the state.
- In some states, wildlife such as deer can be fed with supplemental foods such as shelled corn and other foods. In one southern state, an estimated 300 million pounds of shelled corn are fed to deer each year. However, non-target species (e.g., feral hogs, raccoons) get their fair share of this supplement. As a result, the sows on this higher nutritional plane have larger litters.
- Feral hogs are among the most prolific large mammal on the face of the earth. They have an extremely high intrinsic (built-in) rate of increase when environmental conditions are favorable and can allow for rapid population increases. Population increases are not just a phenomenon in the southern United States and for these various reasons, populations have expanded in many states, including Missouri, and now some 35 states have established wild pig populations.
What is the Missouri Feral Hog Elimination Partnership?
The Missouri Feral Hog Elimination Partnership is a collaborative effort among 15 federal and state agencies, as well as numerous ag and conservation NGOs. The Partnership works on public land and private land to strategically trap feral hogs. The most effective way to eliminate feral hogs is to trap the entire sounder of hogs at one time.
What benefits are there in working with the Missouri Feral Hog Elimination Partnership?
Partner staff assist landowners with technical advice, on-site visits and trapping/elimination efforts. All assistance is free to the landowner.
How does the Missouri Feral Hog Elimination Partnership deal with feral hogs?
The main strategy for eliminating feral hogs is through trapping efforts. Trapping allows for the capture of an entire sounder rather than individual animals. The Partnership also uses night-shooting with thermal devises, UAS, and helicopters to eliminate feral hogs. The Partnership uses the tool with the most efficient approach for each project.
Whom do I contact for help with feral hogs?
You can get help by reporting feral hog sightings and damage online at www.mdc.mo.gov/feralhog or call 573-522-4115 ext. 3296.