Wild hogs have been common in the south for some time, but they’ve migrated north and started roaming the woods here in Iowa. Pork producers often call these wild hogs "feral swine" and warn they can carry brucellosis and pseudorabies.
Iowa Pork Producers president Scott Tapper says feral swine could pass those diseases to Iowa swine herds and the results could be disastrous. "We’re the number one pork state in the country, of course, and it’s an $11 – 12 billion dollar industry," he says. "…We’ve got a real concern."
The Iowa Farm Bureau says one farmer in Louisa County in southeast Iowa already has had to kill off his hogs after they became infected with brucellosis transmitted from feral pigs. Tests on wild hogs in Nebraska and Wisconsin have detected pseudo-rabies.
Feral hogs also damage farm fields and prey on other wildlife. John Ross of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources says two years ago in western Iowa he began to see deep grooves in farm fields and the carcasses of animals eaten by feral swine, which have voracious appetites.
Ross recently had a pen of feral hogs corralled in Fremont County. "You can see here where this hog panel has been pulled down and damaged. This is from a pig trying to climb the fence," he told reporters. "The feral pigs are actually quite agile. They’ve been caught on videotape climbing fences as tall as five feet."
In the past year, the DNR has trapped and killed at least 50 feral swine. Angie Bruce, the head of the DNR’s southwest Iowa wildlife bureau, says there may be many more roaming around the state because they’ve apparently adapted to Iowa’s climate. "They usually pull off a litter in the middle of winter and we thought, ’How would they survive?’ That did not seem to be a problem at all," she says. "In fact, we saw some litters with as high as 13 piglets in one litter."
In the closing hours of the 2007 legislative session, Iowa lawmakers voted to classify wild Russian and European boars as dangerous animals. That upset people like Terry Hinegardner who runs the North Star Gameland Hunting Preserve near Montour and he swears there’s no way the boars he imports for his hunting customers can escape the grounds. "I’ve got one hunting area that’s got six-gauge steel panels that are eight-feet tall all the way around it. I mean nothing’s ever going to get out of that," he says. "Where I raise my hogs, I’ve got eight-foot fence, then I’ve got electric wire going around the inside of it also."
The DNR’s Ross advises hunters and curiosity seekers to steer clear of all wild hogs. "They can be very, very aggressive. The best thing is to keep your distance," he says. "But if they decide they want to take you on, you’re going to have to find a tree to climb."
Ross says the trapping efforts in southwest Iowa seem to have decreased the wild swine population, but he warns they are still too many roaming the woods.