Wild Pig Damage Identification

Identification | Biology | Damage ID | Management | Handling

Damage to Structures

Wild pigs can cause significant damage to fences when they use them as rub posts. 

Damage to Livestock and Pets

Wild pigs have entered turkey pens to damage feeders and eat turkey feed, which subsequently allows ;birds to escape through damaged fences. Wild pigs in New South Wales, Australia, reportedly killed and ate lambs on lambing grounds. Predation on domestic stock and wildlife is less of a problem in North America, but recent research suggests their impact may be higher than suspected. Producers in Texas and California reported to USDA-APHIS-Wildlife-Services (WS) that 1,473 sheep, goats, and exotic game animals were killed by wild pigs in 1991. 

Predation usually occurs on lambing or calving grounds, and some hogs are highly efficient predators. Depredation to calves and lambs can be difficult to identify because the small animals may be killed and completely consumed, leaving little or no evidence to determine the cause of death.  

Death to prey typically occurs from biting and crushing the skull or neck. Hogs begin to feed on the underside of the lamb starting at the chest and stomach. After the heart, lungs, liver, stomach, and intestines are removed, a hog will eat the ends of the ribs, break the back, and expose the muscle surrounding a leg. A pig will then consume the backbone area, approaching from the belly side and also will eat the muscle tissue of the leg. The brain, eyes, and tongue are consumed last. Wild pigs tend to step on the carcass while feeding. The presence of scat will help with identification. Confirmation of predation must occur shortly after death of the prey because pigs also feed on carrion.

Damage to Landscapes

The most common complaint of damage caused by wild pigs is rooting, sometimes called grubbing. Damage to farm ponds and watering holes for livestock is common, also. Damage to crops and rangeland by wild pigs is easily identified. Rooting in wet or irrigated soil generally is quite visible, but can vary from an area of several hundred square feet to only a few small spots where the ground has been turned over.  

The act of rooting destroys pasture, crops, and native plants, and can cause soil erosion. Wild pigs have been implicated in the contamination of leafy green vegetables by pathogenic bacteria in their feces.  

Depredation by wild pigs on some seedlings of forest trees is a concern of foresters in the southern and western US. They may damage fences when entering gardens and can do considerable damage to a lawn or golf course. Wild pigs compete for food and space with native wildlife species, especially game animals such as deer, turkey, and quail. Wild pigs can be significant predators of eggs and newly hatched young of ground-nesting birds and sea turtles, small mammals, salamanders, frogs, crabs, mussels, and snakes.  

Wild pig rooting, wallowing, and trampling damage native plant communities that provide habitat and food sources for native wildlife species. Rooting, wallowing, and trampling activities compact soils, which in turn disrupts water infiltration and nutrient cycling. Also, these soil disturbances contribute to the spread of invasive plant species, which typically favor disturbed areas and colonize them more quickly than many native plants. 

Wild pig activity in streams reduces water quality by increasing turbidity (excessive silt and particle suspension) and bacterial contamination. In time, turbidity and added contaminants affect a variety of native aquatic life, most notably fish, freshwater mussels, amphibians, and insect larvae. In some streams, feces from wild pigs have increased fecal coliform concentrations to levels exceeding human health standards. 

A conservative estimate of the cost of wild pig damage and control practices in the United States for agriculture alone is $1.5 billion annually. 

Health and Safety Concerns

Wild pigs are hosts to several diseases that may threaten the health of wildlife, livestock, and humans.Cholera, swine brucellosis, trichinosis, bovine tuberculosis, foot and mouth disease, African swine fever, and pseudorabies all may be transmitted to livestock from wild pigs.  

Swine brucellosis is a bacterial disease that causes abortions in pigs. The disease is transmitted through contact with infected animals. In humans, symptoms mirror those of influenza. If you develop flu-like symptoms, inform medical authorities that you have worked with feral hogs.  

Bovine tuberculosis was first transmitted to beef cattle by wild pigs on the Hearst Ranch in California in 1965. Pork infected with hog cholera was brought onto Kosrae Island and resulted in the decimation of domestic and feral hogs on the island. Pseudorabies is a herpes virus that diminishes the health of swine and leads to abortion in sows. Feral hogs spread the virus through nasal and oral discharges. While it is not a risk to human health, pseudorabies can kill dogs, livestock, and wildlife.  

Always wear disposable gloves when handling, field dressing, cleaning, and butchering a carcass of a wild pig. Avoid direct contact with blood and reproductive organs. Wash hands with soap and hot water for 20 seconds or longer immediately after dressing wild pigs. Burn or bury gloves used during butchering and remains from wild pigs that have been butchered. Animal remains should not be left for scavengers, nor should they be fed to dogs. Depending upon your jurisdiction, several methods of appropriate disposal may be considered. Check with your local health department or state wildlife agency. Clean all tools and reusable gloves with disinfectant, such as dilute bleach. You should not rely on home freezing to destroy Trichina and other parasites. Thorough cooking will destroy all parasites. Cook meat until internal juices run clear or until it has reached an internal temperature of 170°F.