You might not have seen a feral pig in Georgia, but chances are, you’ve spotted traces of the invasive species.
Uprooted trees, chewed up crops, tracks and scat are prime indicators that you may have a group of these dark-hued, bristly creatures in your area.
Irenee Payne, program assistant for the Hall County Conservation District, said feral pigs — which are also commonly called wild hogs and feral swine — have been reported in all of the Peach State’s 159 counties. Although they may seem harmless, Payne assures Georgians that these hogs are indeed invasive, and they have negatively affected not only native wildlife, but the agriculture industry.
“The economic impact of damage caused by feral swine in Georgia last year is estimated at $150 million,” she said.
In 2017, Payne said the Georgia Association of Conservation Districts started a statewide initiative that focuses on education surrounding feral swine and helps remove populations of the species.
Noticing the increase in feral swine activity in surrounding counties, Payne said the Hall County Conservation District decided to create a survey to assess their effect in Hall. Although the form displays a deadline of Dec. 31, people can still submit their responses throughout January. The feral swine survey can be accessed at gacd.us/hallcounty.
Payne said one of the most important questions in the survey entails the number of wild pigs people have seen around Hall.
“A lot of times landowners will notice a disturbance from where the hogs have been,” she said. “There can be something chewing on crops — which could be a deer — but there’s a good chance it’s also hogs. They can also knock pretty substantial trees down and still cause erosion issues by uprooting trees.”
Feral swine survey
What: Survey to measure the effect of wild hogs in Hall County
So far, around 30 people have filled out the survey, all of which are farmers. Payne said 20% of participants have reported seeing more than 10 on their property, and 40% have noted crop damage resulting from feral swine.
If the survey reveals significant harmful effects or large numbers of wild pigs, Payne said the local conservation district could launch a trapping program in the county. This would entail training a community member to effectively eradicate feral swine populations in Hall.
Payne said a massive trap, which resembles a metal corral, would be used to catch the wild hogs.
Feral swine carry diseases that can be transmitted to pets, people and livestock. Payne said some of the most common include E. coli, foot-and-mouth disease and trichinosis.
How they got here and what to do if you see them
Feral swine, identified by the scientific name Sus scrofa, aren’t your average domesticated pigs. Payne said pigs were first brought to the U.S. by early settlers as a source for food. In the 1900s, she said people transported Eurasian wild boars to the country for sport hunting.
“Back in the day, fences weren’t common,” she said. “Over time, those domestic pigs and Eurasian wild boars bred together and created this species, our feral swine.”
If someone encounters a wild hog, she encourages them to not engage with the animal and go inside. People can also legally shoot feral swine anytime of the year if they find the species on their property.
“They’re one of our biggest invasive species concerns,” Payne said. “In terms of habitat destruction and disease spreading, they’re especially damaging, and they have high reproductive rates.”