Hunting wild hogs is great fun, and it’s a popular pursuit in many places around the country. But wild pigs themselves are a real problem for native flora and fauna. This is precisely why hogs have become a nationwide concern as they reproduce in astounding numbers and find ways to thrive in new environments.
According to a report from the Cowboy State Daily, Wyoming and Montana are currently free of wild swine. However, wildlife managers in these states are receiving reports of pigs in Colorado, North Dakota, and Utah. Landowners and hunters, meanwhile, are worried about hordes moving into Montana and Wyoming from Canada.
Alberta and Saskatchewan are already infested, which shows that cold weather and snow have little impact on the prolific pigs. If they can survive in Canada, so the thinking goes, wild hogs marching into Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming is entirely possible.
As wild hogs continue to spread throughout central Alberta, Ryan Brook, a University of Saskatchewan professor studying the pigs, says they could cause an “ecological train wreck” and bring “absolute destruction” to the native ecosystem.
“They tear up the forest floor, native grasslands get destroyed, wetlands, and water systems,” Brook told the Edmonton Journal. “Wild pigs are the worst invasive wild mammal on the planet. They contaminate water with mud and pathogens, they destroy crops, they are a public safety hazard, and they can transmit disease to humans, pets, livestock and wildlife.”
Brooks explains that wild hogs impact native wildlife, competing with deer, turkeys and other game for food and cover. They’ve been linked to the decline of 22 native plant species, and carry over 80 diseases, including African swine fever.
Wild hogs also grow fast and can gain 80 to 100 pounds in a year. Most mature wild hogs average 125 pounds, but animals weighing over 600 pounds have been documented. All of them can be wild and ornery with respectable tusks.
Worst of all, pigs are incredibly prolific. They breed year round, and one female can have up to 10 piglets at a time. Wildlife managers have determined that feral hogs have the ability to double in population every four months. This is why hunting and trapping feral hogs is not only lawful but necessary in many areas. However, hunting is also a big reason why they’ve been able to spread so quickly to different regions in North America.
“Much of the spread of feral hogs has been in stock trailers being pulled down highways at 80 miles per hour,” he said. “I’m not in favor of hunting as a way to control feral swine, because once hunts become a big-money venture, there could be more incentive to let hogs keep reproducing than there is to eliminate them.”
Still, Montana has officially remained wild pig free, though Zaluski says North Dakota, Colorado, and Utah have documented feral hogs as recently as 2018.
“If guys get feral swine in Wyoming, they’re probably going to come from Utah and Colorado before they come down from [Montana],” he said.