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Feral Swine

Feral Swine Background

feral female swine with young

Commonly known as feral hogs or feral pigs, feral swine (Sus scrofa) are not native to West Virginia. Feral swine are an exotic, invasive species that are the wild descendants of domestic swine introduced by European explorers in the 16th century. Feral swine are found in small populations scattered around West Virginia.

Feral swine make up one of the two populations of “wild pigs” that exist within the state; the other population is wild boar. Wild boar occur in the four-county area of Boone, Raleigh, Logan and Wyoming counties. This population was introduced in 1971 when 30 pen-reared European wild boars were released in southwestern West Virginia. These wild boars were introduced to supplement big-game hunting opportunities for sportsmen and women in West Virginia. This population still exists in those counties and is regulated as a game species.

The feral swine in West Virginia occur in several localized populations because domestic swine have escaped or feral swine have been intentionally released. With each generation of offspring, the domestic characteristics diminish, and the pigs develop traits for survival. These traits include longer hair, tusks and a darker coloration that resembles the wild boar.

Feral Swine Damage

male and female feral swine with young

It is estimated that wild pigs in the U.S. cause more than $1 billion in damages each year. Damage to agriculture and natural resources is caused through wallowing and aggressive rooting behavior. Apart from man, wild pigs are considered the greatest vertebrate modifier of natural communities. Rooting damage can increase soil erosion, damage native plant communities, increase spread of invasive exotic plants species and reduce plant or forest regeneration. Even shallow rooting may cause significant soil erosion, slope destabilization and impede nutrient cycling.

Wild pigs are closely associated with moist areas and their wallowing may reduce water quality, and destroy sensitive riparian or wetland systems. They may also impact aquatic ecosystems via soil erosion and bacterial contamination.  

Wild pigs compete with other wildlife species for food resources in the Appalachian Mountains, especially hard-mast items such as acorns and beech nuts. Wild pigs can be significant predators of ground-nesting birds, frogs, salamanders, snakes, turtles, small mammals and even white-tailed deer fawns.

In addition to damage to our natural ecosystems, wild pigs can also damage pastures and agricultural crops. Wild pigs not only feed directly on and trample planted crops, but they can damage fields by rooting, digging and creating wallows.

Wild pigs are highly mobile and are able to carry many diseases and parasites that can infect other wildlife, livestock and humans.

Feral Swine Management

Wild pigs have become a challenge to landowners, land managers, and wildlife managers in West Virginia and nationwide. Fortunately, the wild pig population in West Virginia has not exploded like it has in other states and appears to be at a controlled level. However, we must act now. Fortunately, the wild pig population in West Virginia has not exploded like it has in other states and appears to be at a controlled level. Therefore, it is suggested that we continue to discourage the movement and release of wild pigs in our state.

Take action and report wild pig activity to the United States Department of Agriculture/The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (1-866-4USDAWS) or to your regional West Virginia Division of Natural Resources office.