By Steve Bennish, Staff Writer
Ohio could be past the point of being able to eradicate destructive wild hogs from the state, a federal wildlife specialist said.
The swine, popularly dubbed “Hogzillas” capable of growing to 500 pounds or more, have taken a foothold here as they have rapidly spread across the United States in a population explosion, a new survey shows.
So far, Ohio’s animals are apparently free of diseases that could harm people, said Craig Hicks, a wildlife disease biologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture based in Reynoldsburg.
But they remain a serious threat to native wildlife and the environment, and hunters should still use caution when harvesting them, Hicks noted.
“Their existence here can only wreak havoc on the natural environment,” he said. “We may be beyond the point of removing all feral swine from Ohio.”
In 2009, the first year of an ongoing program to test the wild hogs for diseases, Hicks examined samples from 14 swine killed by hunters. Tests came back negative for classical swine fever, swine brucellosis and pseudo rabies.
That doesn’t mean hunters shouldn’t be vigilant, he added.
As with deer or any wild animal, hunters should wear rubber gloves when handling raw meat and properly bag discarded pieces after field dressing, Hicks said. Hunters should also wash their hands and clothing. And, as with any pork product, the meat should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
The total number of wild Ohio hogs — a mix of farm escapees and much larger European boars that fled game hunting camps — is 500 to 1,000, according to estimates.
They’re in 26 of 88 counties including Belmont, Gallia, Guernsey, Lawrence, Monroe, Morgan, Noble, Ross, Scioto, Vinton and Washington in the southeast.
They’re also in Adams, Brown, Butler, Darke, Preble and Shelby counties.
Reports also have located them in Auglaize, Champaign, Fayette, Logan, Mercer and Pickaway counties, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
As wild hogs have spread, they have developed permanent populations in more regions, said Jack Mayer, a scientist with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Savannah River National Laboratory in Aiken, S.C.
In a Scripps Howard News Service report, Mayer said he’s tracked the spread of the pigs to 44 states. America’s wild pig population more than doubled in size and range in the past 20 years. Two decades ago, 500,000 to 2 million roamed the United States. Now the population is 2 million to 6 million. In 1982, they were documented in only 17 states.
Mayer said that when a wild hog community is large enough, it reaches a critical mass and gains what scientists say is a permanent foothold.
Twenty-one states fall into that category of having an “established” hog population. When the population is smaller, it can still be removed by hunting and trapping.
Twelve states have so-called “transitional” or “emerging” populations including Ohio, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
Wildlife experts have said the hogs are increasingly running roughshod in rural areas, suburbs and even a few cities. They’re digging up cemeteries, gardens and lawns, causing car wrecks — and occasionally attacking people.
• A wild pig attacked a St. Petersburg, Fla., woman in her backyard in April, goring her leg. Seven months later, an Avon Park, Fla., driver was killed when her sports utility vehicle flipped after colliding with a wild hog.
• In Detroit, a wild pig wandered through downtown, making its way to the home of a family in nearby Warren, Mich.
• In September, in a Redding, Calif.-area subdivision, an estimated 100 feral hogs tore out landscaping and turned lawns into muddy messes.
According to the Scripps Howard report, no national strategy or program exists to corral what is a cross-border problem. Without federal intervention and enforcement of laws that limit transporting animals, the battle against the pigs — which each year cause an estimated $800 million in property and crop damage and 27,000 auto collisions — could very well be lost, Mayer said.
The USDA’s Hicks said wild pigs are challenging to kill.
“They’re a pretty smart animal, and they learn from our mistakes,” he said. “They are prolific breeders. In our southern counties, trying to find them on a large tract of land can be difficult.”
via Dayton Daily News.