Male feral hog

Male feral hogs, known as boars, have long and dangerous tusks and cutters as this photo shows. They can severely injure a person if you get on the business end of them. 

I was riding my ATV along a section of the South Canal, in an area where it passes through some hay fields. Several hogs were crossing a pasture area and heading for cover. As I studied the area, there was no place those hogs appeared to come from; no pens, buildings, fenced areas. Those critters were running wild.

During my years in Florida, I spent much time both professionally and recreationally, doing my best to relieve the State of some of their hog population. We would get called to golf courses (golf courses are a naturally occurring phenomenon in Florida) to view damage.

A groundskeeper would show us several acres of greens, totally destroyed and ripped up. He would claim there had to be 50 hogs to do this much damage overnight. Actually, it was more like 2 or 3 that did the damage.

These destructive critters can tear up acres looking for grubs and other insects, usually during the overnight hours. We used to call the “piney rooters” because of the damage they could do to landscape by “rooting” up everything green.

At first thought, feral hogs in Colorado seemed like a good idea. Folks in Texas have a good time hunting them and they seem like a never-ending food source. Landowners have found hog hunting to be a good source of income through trespass fees and hunting fees, charged to hunters.

Florida, Georgia, and Texas have untold numbers of outfitters and hunting lodges specializing in feral hog hunting. The State of Texas at this point would rather have a cyclone than more feral hogs. Texas has lost the war on controlling them.

Travis Black, from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) is the resident expert on feral hogs. He told me, “Those pigs you saw are probably not feral hogs. Most likely, they escaped from some farmer and are living wild.”

“It takes three full generations for an escaped hog to be considered in a total feral state. A hog reaches maturity at 6 months of age and can begin breeding, so populations can increase in a hurry,” Black continued.

Sows have a 115-day gestation period, and can have 2, and sometimes 3 litters a year. Under the proper conditions each litter can have up to 12 piglets. With that type of breeding efficiency, the feral hog population can double within a year. No wonder wildlife managers call feral hogs “four-legged fire ants.”

The term feral hog and wild hog are generally used interchangeably. Feral applies to a hog that was once domesticated or whose ancestors were domesticated but is now living in the wild with no sense of domestication.

If you need a reason why we do not want feral hogs in Colorado, one needs to look no further than Texas. Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPWD) began removing the feral hogs in 1982. Since then, there are more than 10 times the hogs.

It is estimated that hunters, trappers and wildlife managers kill around 750,000 hogs a year in Texas; that’s 30 percent of the population. With that many hogs taken, the population is still increasing by around 20 percent a year. This is a war that Texas is losing.

Wildlife managers in Texas estimate that 70 percent of the feral hog population would have to be killed annually, just to keep them at the levels they are at now. That is 7 out of every 10 hogs in the state that must be removed, just to stay at current levels.

One of the reasons feral hogs experience such explosive growth is that they are very intelligent and resilient animals. They quickly respond to hunting and trapping pressure by changing their habits or just leaving the area. Push them in the day and they will become completely nocturnal. Push them at night and they will leave the area.

Hogs are known to roam over extremely long distances in search of food. This nomadic tendency makes long term hog control measures difficult and complicated.

Sand Creek in Kiowa County, in southeastern Colorado, saw an invasion of feral hogs back in 2006. Hogs were showing up rooting in the bar ditches along the highway, and there were several hog vs. vehicle collisions.

These particular feral hogs brought a disease, Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS), to a commercial hog facility that was biologically controlled. The disease caused the killing of 6000 domestic hogs and almost completely destroyed the facility.

The feral hogs were eventually destroyed by the CPW and further measures have been implemented, in an attempt to keep feral hogs from Colorado. Colorado has formed a collation to keep feral hogs away with Kansas, Oklahoma and the United States Department of Agriculture.

Kansas recently passed a law outlawing the hunting of wild pigs in an attempt to prevent them from becoming a game animal. If these measures were not in place, and this collation were not operating, Colorado would already be in a situation similar to Texas.

Feral hogs carry at least 30 viral and bacterial diseases, and over 40 parasites that can be transmitted to humans, pets and livestock, as well as wildlife.

The most common way these diseases and parasites are transmitted from hog is through handling, butchering, and eating meat that has not been thoroughly cooked.

Some of these diseases are leptospirosis, toxoplasmosis, brucellosis, tularemia, trichinellosis, hepatitis and E. coli.

Livestock, pets and other domestic animals are especially susceptible to diseases carried by feral swine. These diseases can be transmitted through direct contact with the hogs, their scat, or by feeding and watering containers contaminated by feral hogs.

Hotchkiss had a problem with some wild hogs as residents reported sightings of wild hogs to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Tracks were found in several locations throughout the summer of 2018, but the violators were not found.

Four wild hogs were finally located and euthanized by Officers from the United States Department of Agriculture in March of 2019, in the Southeast corner of our state. It is not certain where the hogs came from and if that was all of them.

Joseph Lewandowski, of Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) said, “Anyone who sees wild hogs should immediately contact their local CPW office. Further, anyone who owns pigs and gets tired of taking care of them should never just let them loose.”

Hogs were first brought to the United States in the 1500’s by explorers and settlers as a good source of food. There have been many repeated introductions since then. In the mid 1800’s, people in Texas raised hogs but as a free ranging animal and not in confinement. There were annual hog drives to gather up the free ranging hogs and bring them to slaughter.

It is pretty easy to see how the feral hog problem originated but the solution is not so clear. Travis Black said, “ If wild hogs got into the Arkansas River bottom, with all it’s farm ground, we would never get them out of there.”

It seems very clear to me that feral hogs are the last thing Colorado needs. We have enough troubles. Let’s just go to Texas and hunt them there and give the Texans a hand getting rid of them.

Mark Rackay is a columnist for the Montrose Daily Press and avid hunter who travels across North and South America in search of adventure and serves as a Director for the Montrose County Sheriff’s Posse. For information about the Posse call 970-252-4033 (leave a message) or email info@mcspi.org

For outdoors or survival related questions or comments, feel free to contact him directly at his email elkhunter77@bresnan.net

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