The US Has a Wild Hog Problem

There are roughly six million of those mfs loose in at least 35 U.S. states

Pack of wild hogs running
Wild hogs are more widespread in the U.S. than ever

Despite not being native to North America, wild hogs are positively thriving on the continent with the population in the U.S. reaching record numbers in recent years.

According to a new report from National Geographic, around six million feral swine run hog wild in at least 35 U.S. states (for context, six million is also the population of Massachusetts). That’s largely due to their adaptability…and the fact that they can produce up to two litters of four to 12 piglets every 12 to 15 months, starting at the age of eight months.

But it’s not the fact that they wreak havoc on agricultural crops, or that they can be dangerous, that’s most concerning to experts. It’s that they carry diseases. And, more specifically, human diseases — leptospirosis, toxoplasmosis, brucellosis, swine influenza, salmonella, hepatitis and pathogenic E. coli, chief among then.

“Swine, in general, are considered a mixing vessel species, because they’re susceptible to human viruses, like influenza viruses,” Vienna Brown, a USDA staff biologist with the agency’s National Feral Swine Damage Management Program, said. “And when those get into swine [they could] create a novel influenza virus.”

“So I would argue that our risk from swine is greater than it is from other, more traditional wildlife species, in part because of their gregarious nature, our proximity to them, and just sheer numbers,” she added.

There’s also risk of wild pigs infecting the pig industry, thus the pork industry. After an African swine fever breakout in China in 2018, farmers were forced to slaughter 43 million pigs to stop the spread.

So far culling efforts in the U.S. have proven less than fruitful, the population remaining unchanged. The goal has shifted instead to “damage management.” (Ominous.) “In the end, trying to control feral swine far outweigh the costs, experts say — even if those benefits aren’t immediately clear,” Jason Bittel wrote.

That said, nipping the potential for another novel virus in the bud feels immediately clear to me.

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