Wild Pigs Running Rampant

Market to Market | Clip
Apr 5, 2024 | 6 min

An expert says the United States took its foot off the gas pedal with the management of wild pigs, which pose a future threat.


[Aaron Sumrall/Pig Brig:] It is. It's something that again, too. I think that whenever we start trying to put our thumb on really when it got bad for where I was that was probably in the early 80s. Up until that point, I mean, in a lot of the rural parts of the south, I mean all over the United States and those rural parts. There was still a lot of folks that use that livestock species even though it was an exotic wildlife species. They depended on it as a protein source and and heavily manage that population just for that and then you start To look at the mid 80s, the early 80s, things like that the economy shifted a little bit, there was more people that weren't coming back to the farm after after they graduated high school or college or whatever the case may be. And as that generation of people aged out to the point where they couldn't go out in the woods and the brambles, the briar patch is and look for these pigs, we took the foot off the management gas pedal for a pig, and reproduction didn't stop. I mean, so they just exploded in population. And, and now we've got the, the bomb that we have, and quickly moving to wherever basically wherever they want to go.

[Yeager]  You mentioned the population explosion, the lack of population control hunting. For those things, it wasn't like a policy change that you no longer can do this, therefore this thing grows, this was just nature taking off? 

[Sumrall]  Right. Because the pig, I mean, a wild pig that what we have in the States is considered a non-native exotics. So with that, there's no game laws that really govern that, that animal as far as hunting seasons, anything like that. So basically, for all practical purposes, where the where the hooves of that animal stand, whatever property that that those feet are at, that's who owns that exotic animal, if they move from my property to yours, now, they're your your issue. They're your exotic animal, there's no ownership. So there's really not a lot of legislation that was in place that would hinder a lot of the management, But early on, yeah, early on, we it was managed heavily with firearm, and there were just a lot of people on the landscape with firearms that were looking for that protein source. And in the last 30, 40, 45 years or so, there's been a substantial decrease in the number of people that are out there on that landscape. And it's gotten to the point where it's not subsistence hunting to look for that protein source. It's hobby or recreational hunting. And we know just through libraries of research, that there's no way that we're going to shoot our way out of a pig problem. So it's going to have to be something of an adaptive strategy, integrated at a specific time based on a prescription for each individual property.  We took the foot off the gas pedal of the management on that species, and it's just, unbelievably I mean, it's a fascinating species. And I don't say that with a passionate thought, in my mind, as far as good, they are fascinating in the fact that they are unbelievably reproductively efficient, they are adaptive to any situation that you put them in. And they're extraordinarily intelligent. So they're the, basically the bottom, if you wanted to say of an exotic species that can occupy anything that you've been anywhere you put them. [Yeager]  This thing can adapt. And, and when and when you saying the out migration off the farm. So basically the eyes and ears of people that you know this boar, I'm gonna take care of this thing tonight, when there's no one to see that it just one becomes two becomes four, it's compound interest of problems. [Sumrall]  Yes, very, very quickly . And now we're seeing it too. And you look at the land ownership trends across the country, everyone likes the opportunity to own land, there's just unbelievable benefits there of owning your own land. And one of the things that we will see that was in that expansion of pig populations across the country, is that the number one limiting factor for pigs is water. Whenever you look at those harsh environments, pigs can go into those areas and flip over enough rocks to find enough grubs and beetles and bugs, and so forth and so on just to exist until they wait for those plentiful resource times of the year. And they'll crank out a litter of pigs in a very short period of time. So that fragmentation is a big issue. 

[Yeager]  So not only can they reproduce quickly, they'll eat anything that can operate on minimal water. So yes, a lake or river, a watering tank provides a problem. We know they're detrimental to crops, are they detrimental to other livestock? You mentioned the cow that might be between two sources. What's the nature battle there?

[Sumrall]  Well, when we start looking at native wildlife populations it is pretty catastrophic. Because I mean, anywhere you go around the world, if it's a native population there, there are other native species there to control that number. What I mean is basically that you've got the coyotes here to control rabbits, you've got the excessive deer numbers or so forth and so on. There's no natural predator for the pig. So basically, whenever we get to the point where pigs weaned. And at 35-40 pounds, there is not a natural predator that's native to North America that's going to see that pig as a food source to the capacity of reducing numbers, it's just not going to happen. / So in the challenges that pigs pose on existing wildlife is that we know and again to going back to just libraries of research out there that shows that pigs are just unbelievably catastrophic on ground nesting birds like quail and turkeys, you can decimate a population of those birds species in a very short period of time, their life expectancy, your life range is not that long. And it doesn't take very many egg clutches to be lost before you devastate that population.

[Yeager:] The full MtoM episode is available now.

Contact: Paul.Yeager@iowapbs.org