Hot Topic: Feral Hogs

By: Austin D. Reymundo

Size of Each Litter:

--The wild pig is the most prolific large mammal on the face of the Earth—but they are not “born pregnant”! The average is between 5 and 6 pigs per litter. Sows have approximately 1.5 litters per year.

Average Lifespan of A Feral Hog:

--Mortality rates vary greatly-impacting the very young and the very old primarily. Predication is not a big issue once they reach about 10 to 15 pounds. Hunting can be a significant mortality factor in some regions but generally is not enough to offset population growth. Depending on a variety of these factors, plus disease, vehicle collisions etc., average lifespan is probably between 4 and 8 years of age.

Their Sense of Smell:

--The wild pig’s sense of smell is well developed (much better than both their eyesight and hearing) and they rely strongly on it to detect danger and search out food. They are capable of sensing some odors 5-7 miles away and may be able to detect odors as much as 25 feet underground! Appealing to this tremendous sense of smell is often essentially as fermented or scented baits can provide additional attraction to make them more vulnerable to trapping.

Eating Routine:

--Wild pigs are opportunistic omnivores, meaning they feed on plant and animal matter in addition to being able to play the role of a scavenger. They are largely in discriminant in their feeding habits and eat both vertebrate and invertebrate animals. Approximately 85% to 90% of their diet is believed to be composed of vegetation (including crops where available) and 10% animal matter. Small pigs may eat approximately 5% of their body weight daily; larger pigs an estimated 3 % of body weight.

The Power of Their Bite:

They have extremely strong jaws to crack open hard-shelled nuts such as hickory nuts and pecans. As they predate upon or scavenge animal carcasses, they can easily break bones and often consume the entire carcass, often leaving little if any sign behind.

Their Speed:

Wild pigs can run up to 30 mph. They can jump over fences less than 3 feet high and have “climbed” out of pig traps with walls 5 to 6 feet high. Therefore, traps with 90 degree corners must be covered on top because the pigs tend to pile up in that corner and literally climb over each other– and the corner gives enough leverage for them to go over the top.

Average Damage Cost:

A 2004 survey conducted by Texas A&M Afterlife Extension Service placed annual damage to agriculture in TX alone at $52 million with an additional $7 million spent by landowners to attempt to control the pigs and/or correct the damage. This is indeed a very conservative estimate. Other researchers suggest that damage per pig per year averages $200– but the problem there is that the assumption is made that a 40 pound pig causes as much damage as a 300 pound pig, which is unlikely.

When Does The Sow Wing Her Piglets:

Within a few days of giving birth, a pregnant sow will leave the group in order to farrow. They may remain apart for 2 to 4 weeks then rejoin the group. We have observed piglets actively feeding on solid food (e.g., shelled corn) at only 2 weeks of age! The sows really don’t “abandon” their litter over time. A “sounder” is a family group of pigs made up of sows (typically related via about 3 generations) and their piglets. Pigs are completely weaned by about 3 months of age, although they have been observed eating solid food (e.g., corn) at as young as 2 weeks of age. About 80% of the yearling females remain with the sounder and the rest disperse. Young males disperse from the sounder at about 16 to 18 months of age. There is some research that supports the idea that sounders can become territorial– but not the individual pigs.