Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Invasive Species: Feral Pig

Feral pigs are also known as feral hogs and razorbacks.
Feral pigs are a major issue in numerous parts of the world. They are virtually everywhere, and may be more of an issue than reported as some sources may think the pigs are of no concern. In fact, feral pigs can be a serious problem. Due to their omnivorous nature, they eat virtually everything, uprooting anything in their path. This destroys crops and countless food sources used by other animals. They may be nocturnal or diurnal and live in virtually every type of environment. Many feral pigs are descendents of domestic pigs gone wild and it's amazing what that process does to the animals. Feral pigs are more like their wild hog relatives, with long snouts, straight tails, lean bodies, and shaggy hair forming a prominent ridge along the back. This patch of longer hair is the origin of the common name "razorback."

Pigs were often purposefully introduced to areas for use as a food source, either as semi-domestic animals or for use as game. As such, it was common for explorers to leave some behind after they discovered a new location. Sometimes pigs would escape, but in almost all cases the ancestors of the feral pigs seen today were purposefully released. Part of this is thanks to some of the methods used to feed the pigs: namely letting them run free and having them find their own food.

When it comes to managing pig populations, there are numerous methods used. Poisoning is one of the most common as it is the most cost effective. However, as with any poisoning, there is a high risk of poisoning species other than the one being targeted. Also, pigs are known to vomit up certain poisons, making them less likely to actually kill the pig. Trapping is also done, after which the pigs will generally be destroyed rather than relocated. Since they are such mobile animals, it's unlikely simply moving the pig will be helpful. Hunting is also quite common, with various methods being used. Hunting pigs with dogs is one of the most commonly used methods.

Despite their extremely destructive habits, pigs do have their uses. Aside from being a source of food, they were once traded for money or goods. They can help control larvae of some damaging plant parasites. They were also once used to clear and aerate soil for gardens.

Feral pigs are on the list of 100 World's Worst Invasives at #91

Image is from Wikimedia Commons and is copyright free. 

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