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Hog wild: Feral swine a growing problem in Ohio

Published Feb. 22, 2010 | Discuss this article on Facebook
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A trail camera captures a herd of feral swine visiting a bait station on public land in southeastern Ohio.

Buckeye Farm News

The feral swine population is growing in Ohio and ending up in areas outside southeastern Ohio where the jumbo-sized creatures typically dwell. State and federal wildlife officials are working with farmers to help trap feral swine as they try to keep the wild animals away from domestic swine herds.

“They carry up to 30 important diseases and parasites that affect people and wildlife. If we find brucellosis or pseudorabies in domestic swine, it would really impact us economically in terms of exporting,” said Craig Hicks, wildlife disease biologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, APHIS-Wildlife Services. Ohio is ranked ninth in swine production in the United States.

For the past year, Hicks has been taking blood samples of wild boars in Ohio to test them for swine brucellosis, pseudorabies and classical swine fever. So far the results have been negative. Hicks also is collecting samples as part of research projects with Ohio State University and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.

Hicks said he has seen an increase in reports of property and crop damage over the last couple of years. The wild boar, which can grow up to 400 pounds, destroys lawns, turfs and crops as it roots for food, he said.

“The biggest thing we’ve seen this year is crop damage to corn. It looks like a steamroller went through the property after they were done. They are living rototillers. They can level several bushels of corn in one night” said Hicks, noting that on average one feral hog can do $200 in direct property damage annually.

Feral swine have typically been found in southeastern Ohio where there are lots of woods for them to hide. But as their population grows, they are increasingly being spotted in other areas, in particular western Ohio.

“They’re pretty prolific,” said Dr. Leah Dorman, a veterinarian who is director of food programs for OFBF’s Center for Food and Animal Issues. Females typically have a litter of four to six but can have much more. They can start reproducing at eight months of age and some sows have litters twice a year.

Hicks said farmers who suspect wild boars are on their property should look for signs of crop damage, ruts and mud pits. They like to rub on trees after rolling in the mud. Wildlife Services will help property owners set traps but do not keep the carcasses. Because feral swine are considered a varmint, a permit is not required to shoot them as long as they are only on the property owner’s land.

For help with feral swine, call Hicks’ office at 866-4-USDA-WS.



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