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Wild pigs marching into Virginia

As if deer packing suburban front yards wasn't enough to send suburbanites into a tizzy, Virginia residents are starting to grunt about wild hogs in their midst.

According to the Washington Post, feral pigs are running rampant in at least 20 Virginia counties, and without a solid mitigation plan, they're threatening to take the state to wild pig levels of Georgia and Texas.

"As far as ecological damage, there is probably not a worse animal that's out there," Mike Dye, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries regional coordinator for feral pigs in Northern Virginia, told The Post.

So how did the pigs take hold in the state? Farm escapees? Old-time colonial Virginia holdouts? Not so, suspect state game officials who blame opportunistic hunters for bringing them into the Commonwealth.

The animals were introduced to America centuries ago, but the recent population boom, state game officials and biologists say, is largely the fault of hunters who imported wild pigs to hunt year round.

The hunters either didn't know or didn't care that the pigs are considered the most invasive animal in the United States. As a menace to ecosystems, they put the dreaded northern snakehead in the Chesapeake Bay to shame.

According to The Post, there are only about 3,000 wild pigs in 20 Virginia counties. That compares with about 400,000 in Florida and upwards of 5 million in Texas. But with a year-round breeding cycle and around eight pups per litter, that number can rise sharply if left unchecked, experts say.

Despite the relatively low numbers so far, residents and wildlife managers are starting to worry the hogs will destroy crops, damage yards and harm people.

If wild pigs develop a stronger presence in Virginia, they "will be the same as deer" that residents often see roaming the yards and streets of housing developments "but there will be more of them," Jim McGlone, an urban forestry conservationist for the Virginia Department of Forestry, told The Post.

I'm pretty sure there are plenty of hunters who'll sign up to help keep Virginia's hog population in check.

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