In North America, pigs have a long and distinguished history. According to the University of Mississippi, they arrived on the continent in the 1500s from Europe. Also in the 1900s, the Eurasian wild boar was brought in. Because of the interbreeding between escaped pigs and the invasive boars, wild hogs have become a problem.
In the United States, these hogs have attracted the public’s attention. There has been an upsurge in interest in the “[l]egit question for rural Americans” after the tweet went viral in 2019. When a large number of feral pigs come into my yard within 3-5 minutes while my little children are playing, how can I kill them all? American Hoggers, a four-season television series about hunting these pigs, aired in 2011. Over the summer, Dean Campbell, one of its stars, died. A tiny business offering a once-in-a-lifetime experience—such as shooting pigs from a helicopter—also arose. As a reminder, wild pigs may inflict $1.5 billion worth of damage in the United States each year—though it’s impossible to say if this makes deploying assault weapons against them any less cruel.
A recent study reveals that we can predict where these pigs are most likely to roam as they spread across the nation by analysing temperature and topographical data. For example, Lindsay Clontz, a University of Georgia master’s student in forestry and natural resources, says that this may assist the United States better deal with the damage.
Radio collars were attached to the necks of 49 wild pigs that were captured in South Carolina along the Savannah River and used to follow their movements for a year. People who study pigs have found that they are more likely to live in areas close to water. To begin with, pigs need water to be hydrated, but it’s also because their bodies have a hard time controlling their own temperatures.
“Pigs are one of the most adaptable and diverse invasive animals there are. However, they have poor thermoregulatory capacity. When it becomes hot out, “we observed that they prefer to limit their travels to regions with adequate thermal coverage—whether it’s canopy cover or areas near streams,” Clontz said.
The researchers also employed air pressure as a proxy for the weather—barometric pressure rising up normally indicates clear weather, but falling pressure may indicate a storm or rain. The wild hogs tend to “remain within” or stay close to their home ranges when there is low pressure, so they may take advantage of shelter. During instances of low air pressure, they may go a little further out than usual.
Upland pines and bottomland hardwoods make up the majority of the Savannah River’s landscape. Because it may assist pigs control their temperature and because it’s exceptionally productive, pigs favour the later real estate. Moving around a lot is common among bottomland hardwood pigs, as opposed to those in less productive settings.
When all the pieces fall into place
As a result of this research, farmers and government agencies alike can better predict when and where feral hogs are most likely to cause damage, according to Clontz. This information, including weather and vegetation conditions, can be easily accessed online.
Other ways include aerial shooting and other types of hunting,” she added. “You may say, ‘Here are the places where I’m going to set traps; here are the places where I’m going to put bait stations,’” and other control measures include aerial shooting and other forms of hunting. Researchers say that their work “helps us better use our limited resources.”
Clontz clarified that her findings only apply to pigs living near the Savannah River in Georgia. However, some of these variables—like habitat quality—are likely to be ubiquitous across the continent, she noted.
It’s not just that wild hogs destroy crops; they can also transmit sickness to other pigs or animals. African swine fever, for example, has been seen in countries throughout the world. According to Clontz’s research, better epidemological judgments may be made as a result.
There are more wild pigs in areas with streams, high-quality habitat, and ideal weather conditions, she added. There are likely to be disease hotspots where these wild pigs [in high populations] are present.