This “super pig” is the result of cross-breeding domestic pigs with wild boars, compounding the problems caused by the ongoing swine invasion.
Pigs are not indigenous to the US, but their population has exploded in recent times, causing an estimated $1.5 billion worth of damage annually. The rise of the hunting industry targeting wild pigs has led to some localized control, where people pay substantial amounts to hunt them down with machine guns.
However, the overall impact of these undiscriminating creatures has been overwhelmingly negative. Michael Marlow, assistant program manager for the Department of Agriculture’s national feral swine damage management program, notes that pigs not only compete directly with native species for food but also act as accomplished predators, preying on young fawns and impacting other wildlife populations.
The environmental consequences of wild pigs are equally concerning, ranging from destroying farmers’ crops to damaging trees and polluting water sources. Additionally, there are serious human health and safety risks associated with pigs as they can carry viruses, like flu, which can be transmitted to humans.
National Geographic reports that pigs have the potential to harbor and create novel influenza viruses that could pose a significant threat to humanity.
Pigs were first introduced to the continental US in the 16th century by Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto, and their populations have seen rapid growth in recent decades due to intentional releases and illicit movement by individuals seeking to establish hunting populations.
Canada, too, faces a surge in wild pig populations, with the emergence of “super pigs” posing a particularly worrying challenge. These larger swine, bred by cross-breeding wild boars with domestic pigs, are not only prolific breeders but also well-adapted to survive the harsh Canadian winters. With their massive size, sometimes exceeding 661 pounds, and intelligence, these super pigs can endure extreme cold by tunneling under snow and creating snow caves for shelter.
Efforts to eradicate wild pig populations have met with limited success, and researchers and experts now focus on managing the damage caused by these invasive mammals rather than complete eradication. Some methods include trapping entire sounders of pigs in large traps or poisoning attempts, which have yielded varying results. A notable approach used in the US is the “Judas pig” method, where a pig fitted with a GPS collar is released into the wild to lead hunters to other unsuspecting pigs.
While control measures continue to be explored, it is clear that wild pigs, along with the emergence of “super pigs,” pose significant and lasting challenges to North America’s ecosystems. The task ahead involves finding sustainable solutions to mitigate their impact while acknowledging that complete eradication might no longer be feasible.
As wild pigs firmly establish their presence, the need to manage their population and curb their detrimental effects on the environment remains a pressing concern for the region.
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