Hogs are still running rampant in the south of the United States. In fact, the USDA estimates that they cause around $1.5 billion in damages nationwide with diseases, crop devastation, and property damages. They’re one of the worst non-native species around, and breed rapidly, too.
And for Alabama, it doesn’t appear that bullets alone can handle the population growth.
In states like Alabama, hogs are considered a game animal. This means that they can be hunted all year round on private property. Given that some hogs, like the one shot by an Alabama man just recently, can reach upwards of 800 pounds, culling them can be a necessity to protect both people and property.
But Mark Smith, an associate professor of forestry that works with the Alabama Extension with wild-pig damage management, pointed out to AL.com that hunting alone isn’t enough.
“It’s not the number you kill, it’s the number you don’t kill that matters,” Smith said.
According to the professor, culling at least 80% of the population would be the state’s best bet to reduce the population or even attempt to halt its growth.
They reproduce that quickly.
Sows, female hogs, can give birth to two litters a year on average, sometimes even reaching three litters in 14-16 months. These litters have four to six piglets, typically, but can have up to 12 according to the Cooperative Extension System.
That means that one sow can produce between 18 and 27 piglets in a year, and those piglets will reach maturity in less than a year themselves. At that time, they will begin to breed as well, and they can live five years in the wild, on average.
For some hogs, that means uninterrupted growth. Wade Seago, a resident of Samson, AL, found out all too quickly what what kind of growth looks like.
Seago was investigating why his dog wouldn’t stop barking one night when he noticed something massive in the yard. Living on 100 acres of land, it’s not uncommon to see wildlife of various sizes, but this beast had Seago worried. Seago didn’t notice until the hog was just five yards from his porch what his dog, a schnauzer named Cruiser, was barking at. And then it started reacting to his dog’s bark.
Hogs are very easy to provoke, and very aggressive when they are.
“Cruiser had this huge hog confused with all of the barking and movement,” Seago told Wide Open Country. “It was not a good situation.”
He reacted immediately and downed it with three shots from a .38 caliber revolver.
The hog was so massive that the Alabama resident had to have it weighed at a local peanut company. And though this massive hog weighed in at 820 pounds, it fell just shy of the top record-breaking sizes for the wild animal. The all-time record reportedly goes to a 1,051-pound hog killed in 2005.
Ultimately, hunting remains just one of many methods to control the hog population. Until a permanent solution has been devised, Alabama residents would do well to educate themselves on hog breeding habits and additional population control measures.