In Louisiana, our wetlands are our future, and the number of threats they face is daunting, from the oil industry and agrochemical runoff to coastal erosion and land subsidence.
Perhaps the greatest threat has been looming for sometime. That is the effects that wild pigs (Sus scrofa) are having on wetland ecosystems. They are decedents of domesticated pigs which were brought to North America by Europeans as far back as the 1500s. Adult feral hogs average about 200 lbs, but can reach well over 400 lbs. They have no natural predators in Louisiana and are prolific breeders, with sows having up to 12 piglets per year (with nearly 100% survival) with a gestation period of just 115 days (2 litters per year) and can reach sexual maturity in just six months. You can do the math.
Their effects on the ecosystem are truly daunting. In addition to drastically impacting crops and levees, their extensive rooting can turn an otherwise-healthy wetland marsh into something resembling a tilled field in short order, literally digging up plants by their root. But their negative impact doesn’t stop there. They are voracious eaters of nearly everything in their path, and will prey upon livestock and other wildlife. They’ve been known to consume baby goats, lambs, fawns, rabbits, turkeys and virtually anything else they encounter. Additionally, they compete for resources with our native species. According to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, “Research shows that deer and hogs do not mix and that deer can be displaced by hogs. Research has shown that deer detection rates can be up to 49% less where hogs occur. Hog populations affect deer numbers through direct competition for food resources and fawn predation.”
Given the nature of feral hogs in our state and region, it’s not a stretch to say that, left unchecked, this multiplying, growing problem could reach catastrophic levels sooner than we may think. In fact, many biologists concur that in order to just maintain populations at their current level, 75 percent of the population must be harvested each year. Unfortunately, there are very few solutions to the problem. One of the most promising is a program by which these animals are caught in live traps, fed grains and monitored for their health for several weeks before being sent to be humanely-slaughtered at a licensed facility.
As our supplier, Two Run Farms, states, "Wild boar is antibiotic and hormone free, as well as leaner than commercial pork. Wild boar is delicious and an environmentally friendly."
Sources: Louisiana Wildlife & Fisheries, Daniel Xu, Two Run Farms