Thursday, September 24, 2020

Feral Food?

For the last several decades, feral hogs have been spreading in the USA. Originally farm animals, they have gone feral and started breeding with the wild boars imported years ago as game animals. This interbreeding has created a potentially dangerous animal that is slowly spreading northward from the southern tier of states. We haven't seen them in the upper Midwest yet, but they've made it to Missouri and Kansas. Reports out of Canada have small herds wandering around in British Columbia and Manitoba, and both Texas and Oklahoma have serious problems with them.

A few points to ponder:
  • Feral pigs will destroy crops overnight and they're known to attack small or sick livestock and pets. They're voracious omnivores and will compete with humans for food, so if you're relying on growing your own you will want to keep an eye open for them.
  • Being close to the size and construction of humans, pigs are very good at spreading diseases. They are a common vector for our annual flu and several other diseases, and this is one of the reasons we have to cook pork thoroughly to avoid illness. Pigs also carry a variety of parasites that are quite happy to transfer to humans.
  • Pig reproduce like rabbits. Starting at 3-6 months of age a female pig will drop at least two litters of 5-10 piglets every year until she dies. With very few predators able to take on a herd of hogs, they spread quickly. Unless you can harvest them at least as fast as they reproduce, a herd of wild pigs will quickly strip an area of food and move on to greener fields.
  • Pigs are smart and adaptable, and will lose their "normal" coloring and start to grow fur soon after they get out of captivity. Those born in the wild will start to look more like their wild boar ancestors with razor-sharp tusks and hooves. They also become more aggressive and have little fear of  anything smaller than themselves.
  • Many states have declared feral pigs a "non-game" animal and there are no seasons or limits, but others have regulations, so check your local laws if you decide to go looking for them. Most hog hunters use dogs to track and catch wild hogs, and it's not unusual for the hog to kill a dog or two before its killed. Sows with piglets and boars are very dangerous to be around, so find a way to kill them from a distance. 
  • Pigs have one weakness: electricity. It doesn't take much current to kill a pig; a lot less than it takes to kill a human, in fact. Something that we'd feel as a tingle of electricity will stop a pig's heart. I've known farmers to lose dozens of pigs due to a faulty light switch in a shed. 
  • Hunting pigs with a firearm or bow isn't much different than any other game, but being able to hit them in a vital area can be a bit of a challenge because they're closer to the ground than a deer. They have a fairly thick skull, so I'd avoid head shots with smaller calibers. Just like most other game, hearts and lungs are the main target areas.
  • I won't bother listing recipes for pork; we've been eating them for a long time, and regional tastes vary. Younger pigs will be more tender and less "gamey", while older boars will be almost inedible due to the rank odor of the meat. If you get hungry enough, though, you'll find a way to eat it.

Whether you're protecting your crops and critters or actively hunting them, wild pigs are a food source to consider in the southern half of the USA. Give them a few years and they'll be up in the grain belt, and that's when things are going to get really interesting.


  1. Lots of Ferals in the Ottumwa Iowa area.

    1. That's getting too close to home. I may check with a few friends to see if anyone is working on culling them.


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