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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Managing feral swine — the land-damaging, disease-carrying wild hogs that roam throughout the country — starts with good data, according to Nana Tian, a forest economics researcher for the Arkansas Forest Resources Center.
To serve as a baseline for feral swine damage assessments to private landowners and help guide management practices, the Arkansas Forest Resources Center in Monticello led a multi-state survey of 4,500 landowners to gauge economic damage to croplands, forestlands, pasturelands/livestock and their combinations.
“We know feral swine can cause a lot of damage, but it was a little surprising to see so many forest landowners reporting damage,” said Tian, who is also an assistant professor of forest economics in the College of Forestry, Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Arkansas at Monticello.
, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The Arkansas Department of Agriculture estimates feral hogs cause about $19 million in damage in Arkansas annually.
Soybean, corn, and rice fields are a buffet table for a sounder of swine — the social unit of feral hogs. One sounder can root up a pasture overnight. Larger swine can kill and eat newborn calves and vulnerable cows. Feral swine teach their young how to evade traps and can trick even the most seasoned hunters and trappers. They are a problem for ranchers, farmers, and even golf course and cemetery managers, said Becky McPeake, extension wildlife specialist with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
McPeake serves on the Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s Feral Hog Eradication Task Force, which is a group of state and partner agencies dedicated to managing Arkansas’ feral swine problem.
according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Most of the swine population was established in southern states, first introduced in Texas by early Spanish explorers over 300 years ago as a source of cured meat and lard for settlers, the report noted. Regarded as an invasive species, feral swine are in all 75 counties of Arkansas with a population of about 200,000.
According to the Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s Feral Hog Task Force, diseases of highest concern with feral swine include pseudorabies virus, swine brucellosis, swine influenza, African swine fever, classic swine fever, and foot and mouth disease.
Caution is given to hunters who harvest feral pigs, McPeake said, because swine brucellosis can infect people. Pseudorabies doesn’t harm people but can be deadly if infected meat is fed to hunting dogs. The other diseases listed are of “great concern to swine producers and the agriculture industry because of untold expense should it ever get into domestic pigs,” McPeake added.
Assessing feral swine damage in the western gulf region of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas,” was published in the Biological Invasions journal in January.
To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: https://aaes.uada.edu. Follow on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit https://uada.edu/. Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk. To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit www.uaex.uada.edu.