Invasive Wild Hogs Pose Numerous Threats
There are approximately 6 million non-native, feral pigs in the United States. They destroy an estimated $2.5 billion in crops, pastures, forests and livestock each year across 35 states and jeopardize endangered species, including the Florida panther, green sea turtles and red-cheeked salamanders. But their greatest threat may be the potential to carry disease to humans, domesticated hogs and other animals.
The pigs were brought to the Americas from Europe as early as the 1500s. They reproduce quickly, with up to two litters of four to 12 piglets every 12 to 15 months, and can grow to be five feet long and weigh more than 500 pounds.
Feral swine can carry a long list of pathogens, including leptospirosis, brucellosis, swine influenza, salmonella, hepatitis and pathogenic E. coli. The U.S. Department of Agriculture describes swine as a “mixing vessel species”, meaning that they are susceptible to human viruses and have the ability to create novel forms of those diseases. Human risk to known and new pathogens is greater from feral swine than other wildlife due to our proximity to them and their large numbers. Hunters and farmers are at greatest risk. Anyone that handles feral swine should wear rubber gloves and avoid fluid exchanges.