More than six million feral swine are estimated to inhabit the U.S., occupying 38 states and three U.S. territories. When loose in the wild, their impacts can be so great on natural resources and agriculture that many states have resorted to gunning down groups of them by helicopter.
But at the same time, humans have a soft spot for pigs. Their intelligence, sense of free will and resemblance to ourselves inspires some to place even feral pigs into human care.
This three-part series investigates our relationships with feral pigs — those who hunt them, those who fear them and those whose life’s purpose is to save them.
As wild pigs root around searching for food across the nation, their thick snouts destroy an estimated $1.5 billion in crops each year. Trapping, aerial gunnery and dog hunting are just a few ways the feral animals are removed and ultimately euthanized by state and federal agencies. But some Floridians take hog management into their own hands. For Amos Townsend, hunting hogs is a means to protect his family farm.
Florida is likely home to more than estimated 750,000 feral pigs. To cool off, they dig muddy wallows that serve as the perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes and, in large numbers, can change the hydrology of the landscape. They carry dangerous pathogens that can be passed to humans, pets, livestock and other wildlife. But methods to manage them are not so clear cut.
Wild pigs are among the most intelligent animals, native or exotic, in the United States. From pot-bellied pets to feral hogs to the large farm pigs that become the bacon on your plate, Americans have a complex relationship with swine. Even though their impacts are well documented, at least fourteen rescue groups in Florida have committed to rescuing wild and domestic pig populations.