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Feral pigs cause damage to crops, farms

newspaperFeral pigs come in all shapes and sizes and can quickly cause trouble for farmers. They rip and root their way through the ground in search of food, leaving behind damage to farms. Their wallowing activities cause property damage, soil compaction and erosion. They also eat and destroy field crops and may harbor diseases harmful to domestic hogs.

Feral swine are in at least 35 states with a nationwide population of more than 5 million, causing approximately $1.5 billion in damages and control costs in the United States each year. That includes at least $800 million in direct damage to agriculture, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Feral swine have been in Virginia for 400 years, and they’re increasingly becoming a bigger problem.

Since 1993, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries have tracked feral swine populations in Virginia to keep on top of the problem. The state has four historical populations, said Glen Askins, terrestrial wildlife biologist manager for the state game department.

“The historical populations are in the city of Virginia Beach, the Orange and Culpeper areas and in the Southwest in Bland and Scott counties,” Askins said. “There are other breeding populations in Halifax, Nottoway and Fauquier counties. In addition, feral swine have been reported in 22 additional counties. “Small populations continue to crop up, but we want to make sure the small groups don’t connect to the large historical groups.”

Wilmer Stoneman, associate director of governmental relations for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, said the concern with feral or wild pigs is how easily they can resort back to their wild instincts and how quickly they breed.

“They can have a litter of piglets in the wild in a short period of time and have multiple litters in a year,” he said. “They can become loose for a short period of time and resort back to their wild instincts quickly. No other animal out there that can resort back to wild state and begin causing trouble that quickly.”

The usda Wildlife Services Program in Virginia has been funded for the first time to address the feral swine problem, so there should be more help for farmers and others with damage issues.

Anyone who experiences damage from hogs is encouraged to call the Virginia Wildlife Conflict Helpline at 855-571-9003.

“Pigs don’t have wings, so they don’t migrate, but people are releasing hogs into the wild and that’s a problem,” Askins said. “Since we don’t have a large problem right now in Virginia, we’re trying to be proactive and identify groups and remove them before they become established.”


augusta free press
augusta free press