As farmers know, feral hogs can be detrimental to crops, pastures, and infrastructure, as well as a serious risk for the spread of disease to livestock. According to Sussex County Animal Control Officer Lisa Mosely, in this area and many others throughout the state, they are more than just a nuisance.
“We just assisted Prince George with 10 feral pigs,” Mosely explained, “and have held 14 since January. What happens is that pigs escape from people who have them as pets or livestock, and they are one of the few animals that within only a month or two will turn feral. They grow long hair and tusks and within less than two months they are completely wild.”
Asked what problems they cause, she responded, “It’s because of the damage that they actually do. They root up and destroy crops and property like little bulldozers! They can travel up to 30 mph, pick up smells from far away, and they make tremendous, unwanted paths through anything, just rooting everything up and destroying the land. The property we just saw in Prince George? Somebody’s going to have to spend a boatload of money making those paths drivable again.”
Moseley said that the problem is considerably larger than most realize, and several area landowners have brought in professionals to try to get rid of feral pigs because they are nearly impossible to catch.
“I’ve just been talking about the ones we know of or have dealt with directly,” Mosely said. “So, it’s probably a bigger problem than we even realize.”
“Anyone considering having a pig as a pet really needs to think twice,” she added, “because it is really difficult to house and hold a pig. They can jump three feet and have been known to climb out of five-to-six-foot fences. Pigs are very powerful escape artists.”
According to the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (VDWR), biologists and researchers are saying that the rapid and vast range expansion of feral hogs in the Southeastern U.S in recent years cannot be explained by natural means or hog biology and are now referring to the situation as “the pig bomb.”
“Feral hogs are four-legged ecological disasters,” says the VDWR website, going on to describe them as “a direct threat to our natural resources, environmental quality, and agricultural interests.”
In fact, due to their destruction of native habitats and significant competition for native wildlife, harboring diseases that can be detrimental to native wildlife, livestock, pets, and even humans, and the significant destruction they cause to agricultural crops, DGIF describes feral hogs as “ranked by many conservation organizations as the most significant threat to native wildlife and their habitats in the United States.”
“DGIF (Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries) strongly discourages recreational (sport) hunting of feral hogs,” it continues, “even if done so in the name of control, because it does not work to control populations and actually leads to more feral hogs.”
The simple and somewhat ominous explanation they offer is that feral hogs create interest in feral hog hunting, which is “leading to more and more new populations through human actions that introduce feral hogs to new areas.”
The site also discloses that “Although proof is limited, biologists know that feral hogs are showing up in new places and they must be getting human help to get there.”
Moving feral hogs and releasing them to the wild in Virginia is illegal, according to the Code of Virginia (§29.1-521) and regulations 4VAC15-30-20 and 4VAC15-30-40.
Anyone spotting feral hogs is urged to call Virginia Wildlife Conflict Helpline toll-free at 1-855-571-9003