Pigging Out

Lawton farmer Damon Doyle’s first experience with feral hogs was 750 pounds of barely stoppable pig. Two arrows and a couple of shells later, Doyle’s nephew was bringing home the bacon. But that hog was a loner. The following year brought more than just one, and Doyle got a chance to see the havoc that feral hogs wreak.

“The hogs went in and turned every wind row over and just made a rut down through the hayfield,” he says. “They didn’t ruin that alfalfa. They just made these ruts through it, which makes it really hard to farm. It’s different for the boys that raise corn. The hogs just get into that and go down the rows cleaning up the seeds that they’ve planted and they don’t get a crop.”

Russell Stevens, a wildlife and fisheries consultant at the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, likens the devastation to a bomb-pocked World War II battlefield.

The hogs Doyle describes are descendants of garden-variety pigs. Raising pigs free-range was an ordinary farming practice in the past. Pigs wandered into the wild, made themselves at home, bred and eventually became a nuisance. The hogs reproduce quickly. The sheer number of feral hogs has graduated them from nuisance to threat over the past few years. Nobody knows how many are running around Oklahoma, but experts agree that there are a lot. They’ve popped up in every county in the state. They eat most anything but thrive on farmers’ crops.

“I’ve known of people that have completely given up growing corn because of the problems that feral hogs cause,” says Stevens.

Feral hogs don’t just threaten crops. As feral hogs spread, Oklahoma pig farmers are taking costly steps to make sure the hogs don’t come into contact with healthy pigs. Feral hogs are known to carry several diseases that, if found in the state’s domesticated pig population, could hammer the swine industry. They reproduce so quickly that if 80 percent of them were eliminated today, it would take only a few years before they returned to their present day numbers.

Experts are undecided on how to adequately address the threat.

 

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