National Feral Swine Damage Management Program Report Offers Insights

The National Feral Swine Damage Management Program report includes information and data that yields insights to this invasive pest.

National Feral Swine Damage Management Program Report Offers Insights

If you've never heard of the National Feral Swine Damage Management Program, don't fret.

It's part of the federal bureaucracy amid the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. That's a mouthful of a program within a division within an agency. The good thing is this program focuses on feral swine, one of the most invasive and pesky species wreaking havoc in the U.S.

The FSDMP was created in 2014 to help compile data and lend assistance to states with problem pigs. That pretty much includes all  of the Southeastern states along with Texas, Oklahoma and others. The program aids state wildlife agencies trying to get a grip on the situation. Officials exchange ideas, what works or doesn't work, and attempt to somehow control what seems to be an uncontrollable problem.

Colorado officials said recently their feral swine have been eradicated. Not controlled or managed, but eradicated from the state. That took about 15 years to get rid of a few hundred pigs located in two known areas. Cool for Colorado! I applaud their persistence and success. But I I also know a state like Texas or Alabama or Florida will never have the same success. Management will be more of a goal than eradication, although you never want to rule out the latter.

Having hunted hogs for almost 30 years, they're one of the most fun and challenging animals to pursue. I love to stalk in hardwood bottoms but, like with most things I don't get enough opportunity. And I know that while hunting is fun and helpful, trapping entire sounders is a better way of management. I may see a sounder but only kill a couple if I have a semi-auto rifle, thus scattering them. Trapping can eliminate all of them.

Here are some interesting nuggets from the FSDMP report:

— Approximations of the total aggregate cost of damage caused by feral swine in the United States are estimated to be $1.5 billion annually, with more than half of that attributed to direct damage to agriculture according to a 2007 study which is still applicable today (Pimentel, 2007). These costs would be expected to increase in the absence of control efforts as feral swine populations continue to expand across the country.

— APHIS works cooperatively with bordering countries, Canada and Mexico, to support border activities and ensure collaborative efforts on feral swine disease monitoring and removal activities. Since environmental conditions and laws governing feral swine vary considerably among states, APHIS’ strategy is to provide resources and expertise at a national level, while allowing flexibility to manage operational activities from a state and local perspective. The overall objective of the program is to minimize damage inflicted by feral swine. 

—  The national feral swine population is estimated at more than six million, with their numbers having increased significantly over the past 30 years (Pimentel, 2007; Timmons et al., 2012). In 1982, feral swine were thought to inhabit only a small percentage of counties in 17 states (Timmons et al., 2012); now, they are present in approximately 43% of all counties in the United States with populations recognized in at least 38 states and three U.S. territories.

— Feral swine can carry at least 30 viral and bacterial diseases, and nearly 40 parasites, that may affect humans, domestic livestock, and wildlife species (Hutton et al., 2006). Specifically, feral swine can shed or harbor zoonotic bacteria or parasites (e.g., cryptosporidium, giardia, trichina, and salmonella) and possibly contribute to the contamination of watersheds, soil, and plants, including vegetable crops. For example, the presence of feral swine in Salinas Valley in California is thought to have contributed to bacterial contamination on fresh produce. Feral swine have been suspected as a possible source of an E. coli O157:H7 contamination in spinach (Jay et al., 2007). A recent pilot study in Texas demonstrated that removing feral swine from a watershed reduced total E. coli contamination by nearly 50 percent.

The report has state-by-state breakdowns including councils, ongoing projects and more information about feral swine. See if your state is listed and what's going on with these pests.


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