How Farmers Can Get a Handle on Wild Hogs

How Farmers Can Get a Handle on Wild Hogs

Wild hogs rooting around

Wild hogs can be a major root of the problem (literally) for farmers as the animals consume plants year-round and inflict damage in the process.
Photo courtesy of USDA

Florida ranks second after Texas with the highest populations of wild hogs in the country. According to a UF/IFAS report (“Wild Hogs in Florida: Ecology and Management”), the state is estimated to have about 500,000 wild pigs in a relatively stable population. Some of the highest population densities can be found north and west of Lake Okeechobee. Rooting by hogs can create extensive damage to property, irrigation systems, and crop beds. The swine also can spread disease to livestock.

According the Bill Giuliano, a Wildlife Biologist and Professor with UF/IFAS, it is difficult to know exactly where the population stands with the invasive species.

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“No one seems to know for sure because the wild hogs are not formally monitored,” he says. “Some places seem better, and other areas seem worse in terms of populations.”

In Florida, wild hogs breed year-round with peaks in the spring and fall. Most hogs begin breeding at one year old. Females can produce two litters per year with each producing one to 13 piglets (usually five to seven per litter). Given that math, it is easy to see why they can become a problem quickly.

As to how much impact increasing urban development is having on wild hogs, Giuliano says, “Likely, not too much. But, if there is a negative effect on the population, it is not a concern because they are invasive.”

National Problem
The wild hog nuisance has been increasing nationally as well. So much so that in 2014 Congress appropriated $20 million to USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to develop a national program aimed at the challenge. The goal of its National Feral Swine Damage Management Program is to protect agricultural and natural resources, property, animal, and human health from hog threats.

APHIS is working with states, other federal agencies, universities, the public, and other stakeholders to exchange information on swine disease monitoring and control activities. But, if hogs are in your groves, fields, pastures, and other properties, you want to act now. Here are a few steps you can take.

Hunting: Ground shooting and hunting are important control methods for wild swine. It is an inexpensive method of control and provides wanted recreational opportunities for hunters. Hogs can be hunted from a stand or stalked. In some cases, hunters utilize trained dogs to locate and hold the hogs at bay. On private land in Florida, wild hogs are considered livestock and property of the landowner, so there is no hunting season — or bag or size limit — on these properties. Hunting on public lands may have certain requirements or licenses.

Wild hog trap

Corral-type traps are considered one of the more effective control measures because they can catch more than one hog at a time.
Photo courtesy of USDA

Trapping: While hunting and shooting can take out a certain number pigs, trapping is considered a better method for controlling hog populations. The animals are shy and often most active at night. There are several types of traps that can be utilized, but in general, cage and corral traps are most commonly used because they can be effective in capturing more than one hog at a time. Traps can be constructed, or there are a number of commercial trap suppliers like Southern Outdoor Technologies and BoarBuster.

Traps should be pre-baited with the gates open for several days before trapping begins, so the animals grow accustomed to entering the trap. Common baits include grain (corn, oats, and barley), vegetables, and livestock feed. Some companies sell bait liquids or materials. You also can use automatic feeders to dispense feed without introducing human scent to the cage, which is repellent to the hogs entering the pen.

Fencing: If you can’t beat them, excluding them from areas where they are not wanted like in groves or fields, can be an option. But, it’s a costly one and not as practical for a large area. Strong fences and/or well-supported, heavy-gauge wire are necessary to keep the pests out. The fence should be buried at least 12 inches underground to deter rooting underneath it.

Multiple Tactics
Each control method has its weaknesses. Because wild pigs are smart and prolific breeders, it can be a challenge staying on top of populations. Giuliano says taking as many out as possible in a concerted effort is probably the most effective approach.

“Removing entire groups of pigs is best done with multi-capture corral traps, supplemented by shooting hogs that are trap shy,” he says.

There are services that will employ multiple tactics to remove large populations from areas. One such service, Jager Pro, uses what the company calls “integrated wild pig control,” a strategic approach using a series of lethal control methods and technologies implemented in a specific sequence based on seasonal food sources.