Beware of Feral Pigs

Estimated 4 million wild pigs distributed across 39 states in the United States.

Published on: Dec 9, 2005

Producers need to be on look-out for feral pigs, warns the National Pork Board. Feral pigs, or wild pigs, can cause extensive damage to property, crops and are a threat to the health of the national swine herd.

According to USDA, there are an estimated 4 million wild pigs distributed across 39 states in the United States. The population and distribution of these feral pigs has expanded in the last decade and wild pigs have been sighted and hunted in some of the country's largest pork producing states including Iowa, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Texas.

Wild pigs are carriers of external parasites and of diseases important to the pork industry. Wild pigs may carry brucellosis, pseudorabies, classical swine fever, foot-and-mouth disease, African swine fever, porcine reproduction and respiratory syndrome, swine influenza virus and leptospirosis.

According to USDA data in 2005, feral pig populations that are serologically-positive to brucellosis have been found in 14 states. Pseudorabies has been confirmed in feral pig populations in at least 11 states. In 2003, feral pigs sampled in South Carolina were found serologically positive to the H1 subtype of the swine influenza virus and serologically positive to PRRS.

Pork producers can protect their herds from contact with wild pigs though strict biosecurity including perimeter fencing. Mark Boggess, director of animal science for the Pork Checkoff, says, "Flies, birds and rodents may be vectors carrying infection between feral pigs and production animals. A good rodent control program, bird-proof buildings and no feed and grain spills are all important biosecurity measures to have in place."

Pigs produced outdoors are especially vulnerable to the threat of feral pigs. Boggess adds, "Producers with pigs outdoors should think of having a strong perimeter fence surrounding their pastures. Fences should be in good condition and checked daily."

Feral pig sightings should be reported to the state veterinarian's office as feral pig control and eradication techniques may be in process for the state. Boggess says, "Producers should review state regulations to find out about managing and controlling wild pigs on their property."