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Dirty Dozen Invasive Species of the Month – Feral Hogs

Six Rivers “Dirty Dozen” Invasive Species

Feral Hog (Sus scrofa)

 

Feral Hogs
Photo: UF IFAS

Define Invasive Species: must have all of the following –

  • Is non-native to the area, in our case northwest Florida
  • Introduced by humans, whether intentional or accidental
  • Causing either an environmental or economic problem, possibly both

Define “Dirty Dozen” Species:

These are species that are well established within the CISMA and are considered, by members of the CISMA, to be one of the top 12 worst problems in our area.

 

Native Range:

The feral hog in Florida today is believed to be the descendants of a hybrid between domestic pigs and wild boars in Europe.

 

Introduction:

These animals were introduced by the Spanish colonists during the 1500s.  It is known that Ponce de Leon brought pigs with him in 1521 but it is not known what happened when this expedition failed.  It is known that in 1539, Hernando de Soto did bring European pigs and began raising them using the free-range method.  The term “feral” refers to domesticated animals that escaped and now live as “wild” animals.  The term “feral hogs” is used for both the original European releases and any domesticated hogs that may have escaped.

 

It is now believed that there are breeding pairs of “wild pigs/feral hogs” in 39 states.  Population estimates in the Florida are believed to be greater than 500,000.  Most are west and north of Lake Okeechobee.

 

EDDMapS currently list 6,666 records of feral hogs in the U.S. This is certainly under reported.  There are 243 records from Florida, 45 of those in the panhandle, and 26 within the Six Rivers CISMA.  Again, this is significantly underreported to EDDMapS.

 

Description:

Feral hogs are usually brown, black, or brindle in color, juveniles may have stripes.  They can reach five to six feet in length and weigh up to 250 pounds.

 

Issues and Impacts:

The primary issue with feral hogs in their rooting behavior.  These animals will destroy a lot of habitat rooting under the soil with their snouts and hooves looking for roots, tubers, and fungus to eat.  They destroy native vegetation, some of which are protected species, as well as altering the soil chemistry completely changing the environment.  They are also known to carry disease that can be transmitted to livestock and, in some cases, to humans.  It has been estimated that feral hogs cause over $2 billion in damage to agricultural products annually.

 

They also love acorns and compete heavily with local deer and turkey populations for this food source, impacting those populations.  They are known nest raiders and impact the nesting of native turtles and ground nesting birds.  They are not beyond grabbing small livestock from local farms.

 

Management:

On private land, feral hogs are considered livestock and can be removed with owner permission.  There are no bag limits or closed seasons when hunting on these lands.  On public lands there can be seasons and licenses/permits required.  Hunting, trapping, and exclusion are all methods being used.  Methods of trapping include cages.  The types, and effectiveness, are addressed in the UF IFAS EDIS publication UW3222.  Exclusion usually involves fencing and the best methods are also explained in UF IFAS EDIS UW322.  However, hogs are intelligent animals and often find ways around fences.  Trapping is considered the most effective method.

 

For more information on this Dirty Dozen species, contact your local extension office.

 

References

 

1 Boughton R.K., B. Wight. 2021. Wildlife of Florida Fact Sheet: Feral Swine.  University of Florida IFAS. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/UW442.

 

2 Giulianio W.M. 2021.  Wild Hogs in Florida: Ecology and Management.  University of Florida IFAS. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/UW322.

 

Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System (EDDMapS)

https://www.eddmaps.org/

 

Six Rivers CISMA

https://www.floridainvasives.org/sixrivers/