Feral Hogs Are Spreading, But You Can Help Stop Them

Feral hog distribution 2015 qdma

There’s a wildlife disaster walking your way. Or, instead of walking, it may have wheels under it. I’m talking about feral hogs, and if you don’t have them where you hunt, give it time. Hogs are gradually expanding their range, as you can see in the map above released this summer by the Southeast Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study (SCWDS).

The map shows counties with established feral hog populations reported in 1982 (blue) and more recently 2015 (red). Notice how hogs have completely filled in almost all Deep South states in that time, and they’ve made much progress in their steady march northward. Notice also the outlier populations like those in Michigan, Virginia, Pennsylvania and other states. Populations like these were not established through natural hog movements but through transportation and release of feral hogs, most likely deliberate.

“Urge your state wildlife agency and your state legislators to ban transport and release of live feral hogs in your state – if it’s not already illegal.”

Why should you care? If you love to hunt and manage whitetails, you cannot also love feral hogs. They directly compete with deer for food like acorns and soft mast. Research even shows that deer avoid hogs, so it’s not even a competition: Hogs control the best food sources, and deer get the table scraps later. Hogs uproot food plots, sometimes raiding them for the seeds you just planted. They dig craters that are large enough to damage farm equipment. Hogs ruin forest roads, steal bait intended to attract deer to your trail-cameras, raid turkey nests, and generally destroy the deer habitat you’ve worked to build. They even foul the water in small ponds and wetlands, creating the kind of low-quality mudhole that is ideal breeding habitat for the flying gnats that spread the EHD virus among deer.

feral hogs reproduction qdma
Feral hog sows produce 1.5 litters per year on average, with six piglets in each, though a single litter may include up to 14 piglets.

With the release of this new map, Dr. Joe Corn at SCWDS estimates there are now over 9 million feral hogs in the United States. This means approximately one feral hog for every three whitetails. According to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, feral sows reach sexual maturity at 6 to 8 months of age and produce 1.5 litters per year on average, with six piglets in each. This high reproductive rate is why experts say you must remove 50 to 70 percent of a local hog population annually – with most of those being sows and juveniles – to bring them under control.

This can be very difficult, as anyone who has tried to control feral hogs will tell you. Therefore, prevention is as important as control. What can you do to prevent this problem arriving in your woods? Stopping the transport and release of live feral hogs is critical. Urge your state wildlife agency and your state legislators to ban live transport and release of feral hogs in your state – if it’s not already illegal. If you pass a trailer loaded with feral hogs on the highway, or learn of someone in your area moving and releasing live feral hogs, call your state’s poaching hotline or other law enforcement immediately.

  • cinnreds18

    Not buying this “map”
    Never have I seen or heard of a hog issues and or sightings In Craig/Giles county virginia….. never. Culpeper and Smith county I can buy that (though most hogs killed in those county’s are always hybrids on some schmo’s farm) but the I can tell you the rugged mountains in Craig/Giles where 2/3 people hunt 😕 doubtful.

  • Audrey Carol

    Is it illegal to feed feral hogs? Have a neighbor that’s been doing it for awhile and doesn’t intend to stop.

    • Lindsay Thomas Jr.

      Audrey, there are several states where feeding wildlife is banned or regulated in various ways. I’m not sure any of them speak specifically to hogs, but it’s possible. It’s best to contact your state’s wildlife agency to find out. Thanks!

  • Dee Rz

    who want to go fing public land and swine cmon!

  • Dean Rogier

    If this is such a problem, why the heck is the cost of BACON so high? Seems like this is an accidental resource that isn’t being managed very effectively! 😉

    • JohnTomato

      Trichinosis. Feral swine are known carriers of all sorts of diseases that will hurt/kill humans. Like all game animals they taste like the forage they eat. Deer around apple orchards/corn fields are much tastier than deer around sulfur springs. Shooting is expensive and not efficient. Box traps teach swine to to go into box traps. Drop nets and drop ring cages (set off by motion sensors) are the gold standard for getting rid of entire sounders. The BoarBuster just might save cattle ranching.

  • Christa

    There is no one right answer. While no one may get a commission for endorsing a coral pen, the USDA sure is pushing them. Hog hunting is a form of hunting just like coon hunting or duck hunting. Are we going to do away with them too. I agree that transport is not a good idea but don’t lump all hog/dog hunters in the same category. Dogs can be a productive tool in the quest to decrease the hog population because I do not think that eradication is a feasible reality.

    • Lindsay Thomas Jr.

      Christa, corral trapping is the buzz right now because it can be extremely effective at taking out entire family groups in one door-closing if you do it right. Technology available today allows a trapper to see the hogs feeding in the trap through texted trail-cam photos and remotely trigger the trap when all the hogs are inside. This prevents educating some hogs that are still outside the trap. No type of hunting, with dogs or without, is going to take out an entire “sounder” of hogs at once like that. Many hogs will escape and they are not wise to the pressure. So, with whole-sounder trapping, there is hope for seriously reducing hog numbers. No, total eradication is probably a fantasy, but we can drastically reduce the negative impacts of hogs, especially if we stop live transport and release of hogs into new areas. Thanks for reading!

  • Eddie Rodriguez ( Red Dog )

    Excel hog removal I will help control our hogs problem in Florida by using dogs and traps and I will not change no money and do it for free (786-395-3078)

  • Anonymous

    Yes the dogs scatter the hogs. Dog hunters might catch 2 or three at one time and the rest take off. They mostly just move the hogs around. Catch the sounder with trap, then use the dogs afterwards to get the remaining few.

  • Ted

    Best combination is trapping and dog hunting. Let me explain. The traps will get only the young and the dumb. I’ve seen videos of mama hogs opening up the trap door and letting their babies stroll out. Other hogs see their brethren stuck behind traps and they won’t go in. They’re THAT smart so you need dogs to track down the mature boars/sows. People that rely on traps only won’t get the hogs. Not all of them, I promise you that. I think people who have not grown up using dogs on hogs aren’t experienced or have enough knowledge of how hunting hogs with dogs works and yes, it’s a lot of work but basically they’re thinking the dogs scatter the hogs, no. It does not. If they haven’t hunted behind dogs, then they need to shut up and experience it for themselves to see the true purpose of getting after hogs with dogs. I’m tired of people saying, oh, dogs scatter hogs. No. Again, no. Hogs don’t have a fixed territory like other animals. They go where the food sources are at certain times of the year. They will leave their lands once the food is used up and come back when food is available. They will most likely be found where there is heavy cover or water. They literally can’t live far from water because they can’t sweat like other animals so they have to stay near water.

  • Ronnie Volentine

    Mass remote trapping is the only way to significantly control the population. I have a JagerPro trapping system that allows a simple coral/pen to be built and using the JP gate and camera, I get texts of pics as they are taken, and can drop the gate via text from any location. Total cost around $2500, but if u own or manage land, this is minimal compared to the damage by hogs. JP staff/Mgt is great and know how to catch pigs!!!! We need more people with these type traps.

    • Ted

      You’re probably getting a commission by trying to advertise those traps online. Good try. I would say it’s too expensive for me anyway. I don’t see what a rancher/farmer would spend that much just for a trap.

      • Lindsay Thomas Jr.

        Ted, I doubt that Ronnie is getting a commission. I know many people who have used the JagerPro system with extreme success. No, it is not a cheap system, but for trapping entire sounders of hogs in one drop, while educating few or no hogs to be trap-shy, a system like this one is hard to beat. If you want to get serious about controlling hogs where you hunt, whole-sounder trapping is the way to do it.

  • allene staten

    We do not need these ,, they will destroy our natural habitat ..We need to get control of this now..

  • Anthony cerra

    Is there hogs in Washington state?

    • Lindsay Thomas Jr.

      Anthony, the map shows established populations in central Washington state. You also have them all along the border with Oregon, so it looks like there’s plenty of opportunity for expansion in the Pacific Northwest.

  • Ed Lulek

    I work along side with KY Fish & Wildlife to help control our hog problem. Our answer isn’t dog hunting them. We’ve found that spreads the sounder apart & simply spreads the population farther. Our best results come from trapping them in large corral traps big enough to catch the whole sounder. Any not corralled are hunted over bait & shot with suppressed .22 caliber guns so not to spook any others or snares where we won’t harm any other wildlife. Seems to be working for me. I agree though that these hogs are being moved by people that don’t realize how destructive & harmful they will be.KY is tough on those caught moving live wild hogs but how often does that happen.

About Lindsay Thomas Jr.

Lindsay Thomas Jr. is the editor of Quality Whitetails magazine, the journal of QDMA, and he is QDMA’s Director of Communications. He has been a member of the QDMA staff since 2003. Prior to joining the staff of QDMA, Lindsay was an editor at a Georgia hunting and fishing news magazine for nine years. Throughout his career as an editor, he has written and published numerous articles on deer management and hunting. He earned his journalism degree at the University of Georgia.