You may be surprised to learn the identity of the most destructive invasive species in Florida.
It’s the feral hog, also known as wild hog, feral swine, or the European boar. Why does it hold this dubious honor? For several reasons, as this article will show.
First, let’s look at how it all began.
A Little History
The popular belief is that Hernando de Soto, a Spanish explorer and conquistador, first introduced hogs when he brought a handful of swine to Charlotte Harbor in Lee County in 1539, as provisions for a settlement there.
So how did the numbers grow from a handful to over 1 million in Florida alone today, being present in every county in Florida?
Over the next few centuries, explorers and settlers brought in more hogs. At first, they were raised in semi-wild conditions, until open range became illegal in the mid–1900’s. These, along with escapees from captivity, established feral populations throughout Florida.
The ability of feral hogs to breed year-round and have up to two litters of 4 to 12 piglets per year is one reason their numbers are growing exponentially.
What do they look like?
Feral hogs can generally be categorized into three types, those from domesticated stock, the Eurasian wild boar, and a hybrid of both. As such, their appearance can vary but for the most part, feral hogs have black, white, and/or reddish-brown hair. Their coloring can be solid or have mottled markings across the body. All wild hogs have the following features:
- Long snouts with a round, disc-shaped ending
- Long canine teeth that appear as tusks (those on some males even reach trophy length, although female ones are smaller)
- Relatively short legs for their body size
- Sharp cloven hooves
- Excellent sense of smell
- Good hearing
- Relatively poor vision
Because of genetics and local conditions, the size of feral hogs can be variable. Generally, males (boars) are bigger than females (sows). An average male may be five feet from the tip of the snout to the tip of the tail, with a shoulder height of three feet, but much larger ones have been recorded, and weigh in at 150 pounds up to 200 pounds plus. Their four continually growing tusks are self-sharpening, as the two in the upper jaw rub against the two in the lower jaw.
What are their habitats?
Feral Hogs make their home territory in a variety of habitats. In Florida, they can be found in upland pine, flatwoods, bottomland hardwood forests, swamps, coastal areas, marshes, and agricultural land.
They do have preferences though. Top of the list are areas where they can find plenty of food (especially their favorite, acorns), water (for drinking and wallowing in), cover (for bedding and protection from hunters and predators), and where there is minimum human disturbance. Large forested areas, dotted with marshes, ponds, hammocks, and drainages make good hog habitats.
What does their diet consist of?
One thing you can say for certain about wild hogs is, that they are not fussy eaters. Being opportunistic omnivores, they are happy to eat whatever is available, vegetable and animal, but vegetation makes up the bulk of their diet.
A wild hog’s favorite food is acorns but the list of other edibles on the menu is diverse and long. The “salad” selection includes roots, tubers, grass, seeds, fruits, fungi, and leaves among others. The “meat” choices are fish, mollusks, crustaceans, small birds, insects, worms, mammals, and amphibians, even your small family pet if it’s unfortunate enough to stumble across a hungry hog.
What Problems can they Cause?
The answer to the above question is … numerous, including the following:
Rooting is where feral hogs use their long tough snout and sharp tusks to dig into the ground for food. This damages roots, seedlings, agricultural land, food crops, and, in some cases, irrigation equipment. Rooting in dirt roads or paths can make the movement of vehicles and equipment difficult. This activity creates large holes in fields, lawns, recreational land, and garden beds. Soil erosion is another problem as rooting destabilizes the soil surface.
- “Tusking” trees
Males will often rub their tusks against trees, stripping the bark, and causing serious damage. This is believed to be done to display their dominance.
Wallowing in ponds and streams can not only cause a decline in water quality but endangers aquatic life and destroys native vegetation around ponds.
- Carriers of diseases and parasites
Feral hogs carry numerous pathogens and parasites that can affect livestock, wildlife, and people. These include brucellosis, tuberculosis, cholera, pseudorabies, salmonellosis, ticks, fleas, lice, anthrax, and various worms and flukes. To keep livestock safe from the diseases spread by wild hogs, millions of dollars are spent each year.
Hogs can be aggressive if they are cornered, injured, or with young. They can move very quickly (up to 30 mph) and can cause serious damage with their hooves and tusks.
Fences and other structures are known to have been destroyed by feral hogs
- Their impact on native species
Ground nesting wildlife including birds and turtles are preyed upon by hogs. They compete with native wildlife such as deer for food.
Solving the Problems
There are two basic methods of preventing wild hogs from becoming a problem on your private land or in your garden. They are:
Fencing can be effective if the right type is used and erected correctly to keep hogs out
Removal involves trapping the animals, using strong, well-constructed traps.
Neither of these options is straightforward for a householder. And either can result is worse problems.
The simple solution would be to call Wildout Animal & Pest Removal. By striving to make the process as humane as possible, we take the stress out of removing pest species for our customers and the animals.
Wildout offer a free inspection and provide a detailed treatment plan. Why not call us today at 844-945-3688. You’ll be glad you did.