Wild Pigs are a Growing Threat to Hikers on the Trail

 

Hikers generally have certain wild animals they watch out for while hiking. Is the wild pig on your list? These wild hogs are a growing threat and can live in a wide range of habitats. They mainly dwell in forested areas where the trees and vegetation provide them shelter and food but they also can be found in marshes or swamps as well as farmlands. Because these feral pigs exist in at least 40 states there is a chance your favorite trail could be home to these invasive "backwoods beasts".


Potential Threats to Hikers from Wild Pigs

wild boar with sharp tusks
  • Feral pigs can exhibit aggressive territorial behaviors.
  • Hogs may weigh up to 300 pounds or more, can charge at least 11 mph and can quickly attack hikers.
  • Boars have four extremely sharp tusks up to five inches long that can severely injure or kill a hiker.
  • Hikers can contract disease (undulant fever, etc) from any contact with an infected hog.
  • Pigs can contaminate water sources with their feces.


Risk Assessment:
  • Just like other wildlife, feral hogs will be most active at dawn and dusk.
  • Wild pigs have great senses of hearing and smell and will generally avoid contact with humans.
  • If you see a pig on the trail keep a safe distance especially if piglets are present.
  • Data indicates that attacks occur at the highest rate (33%) in the winter months during daylight hours and appeared to be unprovoked (Mayer 2013). By comparison the risk during summer appears lower with only 17% of events. Of the 21 states with reported violent incidents, the most cases in the United States came from Texas (24%), Florida (12%) and South Carolina (10%).
  • It's not only in rural locales. Clashes with wild hogs in suburban and urban areas have been on the rise since the mid-1990s.


How to Survive if Threatened:

  • If you ever have a faceoff with a hostile pig your best option to defend yourself may be to climb the nearest tree, boulder, car, etc.
  • You want to get at least 6 feet off of the ground because large pigs can somewhat "walk" up a tree trunk with their front legs.
  • If a pig charges and you can't escape you can try to sidestep very quickly to avoid the potential swing of its tusks.
  • Your last resort may be to physically fight back with whatever means possible until the mauling ends.
  • While fighting back try to remain standing. People who fall or are knocked to the ground can sustain more serious injuries.
  • Most assaults on humans are over in under one minute.


How Feral Swine Threaten the Environment

wild boars wild pig distribution map Feral pigs are considered an exotic and invasive species. They cause extensive damage to agricultural lands and other environments. The rooting feeding behavior of pigs destroys native plant species which disrupts natural plant communities. These disturbances can allow exotic plant species to become established which further negatively impacts the native plant communities. This rooting also creates areas of erosion, especially near stream banks, which in turn can impact the water quality making life harder for aquatic wildlife. Pigs living in the wild compete with the native wildlife for food, water, cover and space. Deer, bears, turkeys, foxes, bobcats, and raccoons are just a few examples of animals that compete with wild hogs for resources.

Pigs can adapt to wide range of habitats, have a high reproductive rate (two litters of 4-14 piglets a year), and have few natural predators which makes them hard to control. Known predators of wild pigs include black bears, mountain lion, bobcats, coyotes, and owls, all of which are unable to keep pig populations in check.


Have You Seen Any Signs of Wild Pigs?

pig tracks In many states the departments of Natural Resources, Wildlife, etc are asking people to report any sightings of wild pigs. These sightings are used to track their numbers and to assist in control methods. Some states allow people with a concealed pistol permit (CPL) or valid hunting license to take any opportunity to kill any free-ranging pig running at large on public property.

Maybe you didn't see an actual pig but instead saw where it has been. Pigs leave evidence from rooting, wallows and rubbings as well as from tracks and from creating trails. The tracks of wild pigs are close to those of deer except they have rounded toes. They generally appear more rounded than the tracks of deer as well as being wider than they are long, plus they are shorter than deer tracks of the same width.

Wild pigs are definitely an unfortunate threat to our natural environment and they are just one more potential danger that a hiker can encounter on the trail.



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