Feral Pigs aren't so cute when they are tearing up land in Lakewood Ranch.
Feral pigs not so cute
When Hernando DeSoto landed in Florida in 1539, little did he know of the plague he would bring to our state and our country. I'm not speaking about small pox, diphtheria, chickenpox or malaria. DeSoto brought 13 pigs to the new world to use as a food source but within three years, they grew to over 700. As these European domestic swine escaped and became feral, their population exploded to over 6 million extending across 35 states. During this population explosion, Russian boars that were imported for hunting, escaped and interbred. That added size, aggression and destruction to the mix. The perfect storm feral invasion.
Some folks see feral pigs wandering through our neighborhoods and think they are cute, furry, signs of nature, but it doesn’t take much searching to learn the facts of this disease infested wave of destruction spreading across the country destroying our crops, our lands, our livestock and our native species.
In their native habitat there are predators that prey on them such as lynx, panthers, brown bears and wolves. They do not have that population control here and their population doubles every five years meaning by 2030 there will be 24 million feral hogs.
A sow can breed at 6 months of age breeding twice a year producing litters up to 12 piglets. They are riddled with diseases such as swine brucellosis, pseudorabies (an easily spread form of rabies), tularemia, and many others. Each year feral hogs do an estimated $1.5 billion of damage to property, crops, livestock, destroying ecosystems and devastating native species.
Feral hogs are invasive, the same as fire ants, Burmese pythons, love bugs, lion fish, kudzu, and Brazilian pepper trees. When was the last time you saw one of those bright green anole lizards scurrying around? The brown ones you see everywhere are invasive from Cuba, the green ones are the only ones native to the U.S. and are being wiped out.
The new industrial park on Lakewood Ranch Boulevard that I work in was recently devastated by one family of feral hogs. The lush sod has been ripped to shreds and the holes they dug are more than a foot deep. Hiking in preserves and parks in the area, we see this destruction everywhere.
Life is precious but nature is a balance, without control of invasive species it will not remain that way. Although it is doubtful these invasive species will ever be completely eradicated, we need to see them for the threat that they are. We need to control what we can and support the efforts of organizations such as the National Environmental Coalition on Invasive Species (NECIS) who, partnering with agencies such as The Nature Conservancy and The National Wildlife Federation, work to prevent the introduction and spread of invasive species.