Wild Pigs Population More than Doubles, Now in Illinois

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Wild Pigs Population More than Doubles, Now in Illinois

From Scripps Howard News
January 2010

Experts are trying to address the problem by developing edible methods of swine birth control. "The game plan is that they eventually will be able to have male birth control put in bait."

America's wild pig population is exploding and spreading across the country, more than doubling in size and range in the last 20 years.

Two decades ago, somewhere between 500,000 and 2 million wild pigs roamed the United States. Now the population is between 2 million and 6 million. In 1982, feral pigs were documented in 17 states. Today, they are found in 44, including Illinois.

Wildlife experts say the hogs, weighing up to 500 to 750 pounds, are increasingly running roughshod in rural areas, suburbs and even a few cities, digging up cemeteries, gardens and lawns, causing car wrecks -- and occasionally attacking people.

"They eat our crops. They root up our wetlands. They compete with our native species. They damage property. They run into our cars," said Jack Mayer, a scientist at the U.S. Energy Department's Savannah River National Laboratory in Aiken, S.C.

A wild pig attacked a St. Petersburg, Fla., woman in her backyard last April, goring her leg. In November, an Avon Park, Fla., driver died when her SUV flipped after colliding with a wild hog.

A wild pig wandered through downtown Detroit in March. In September in a Redding, Calif.-area subdivision, an estimated 100 feral hogs tore out landscaping.

The feral pigs cause an estimated $800 million in property and crop damage and 27,000 auto collisions yearly.

Eurasian wild boar were introduced into the American wilderness beginning in about 1900. Today's wild pig population is largely a combination of domestic pigs, Eurasian wild boar or some hybrid blend of the two.

Experts are trying to address the problem by developing edible methods of swine birth control. "The game plan is that they eventually will be able to have male birth control put in bait," Mayer said.