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Hogs gone wild create new nuisance for Halifax County

Watch out Halifax County! Feral hogs are on the loose, and they’re posing a threat to local livestock, cropland and forestland, according to Virginia Cooperative Extension Agent Jason Fisher. 

“Wild feral hogs are the next big item on the horizon to wreak havoc on farmland as they are very destructive. There are currently active populations just over the N.C. border and in Halifax County,” Fisher said.

This new area nuisance has prompted the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to host a seminar entitled “ Feral Hogs in Virginia: What We Know and Why We Care” on Monday, Aug. 20, at 6:30 p.m. at the Scottsburg Volunteer Fire Department.

Wildlife Biologist Dan Lovelace said the wild hogs have made their way to Halifax County in two ways. 

Pigs escaped from their owners, were never recovered and breeded in the wild to
become feral, Lovelace said. 

Another way occurred when people brought them in from other states to turn loose on their property so they could hunt them.

Feral hog populations are not large in Virginia, not just yet, Lovelace said. Larger populations can be found in the Tidewater and Culpeper areas.

 Although populations are small here, feral hogs still present a threat to this area, Lovelace said.

 Feral pigs threaten cropland and forestland because they root and grub, tearing up the ground for food. 

“This can destroy young seedlings and other wildlife habitats,” he added.  

Feral hogs also threaten cornfields and prey on ground nesting birds like quail and turkeys.

Feral pigs have been known to carry diseases that can infect humans and domesticated livestock and animals.

Feral hogs can carry pseudo rabies and not be affected by it.

However, pseudo rabies can significantly affect domestic pigs if infected resulting in pig abortions and piglet deaths. The disease particularly affects young pigs, Lovelace said, noting pseudo rabies causes a high death loss in piglets less than four weeks old.

Adult pigs don’t usually die when exposed, but they can develop a fever and upper respiratory inflammation. 

Pseudo rabies also affects cattle, horses, dogs, cats, skunk, rats and mice. 

Humans are not affected by pseudo rabies, Lovelace said.

Swine brucellosis is another disease wild hogs are known to carry that affects their reproductive tract and can lead to pig abortion, stillborns, weak pigs, infertility and lameness in pigs. 

Brucellosis does not transmit to other wildlife, but this disease can affect humans.  

“Those who contract the disease may experience flu-like symptoms,” he said, emphasizing the importance of using latex gloves and washing hands thoroughly with soap when dealing with or butchering feral hogs to keep from contracting the disease. 

“It is also important to clean and cook the meat thoroughly before consuming. The fatality rate for this disease is low for humans, but the disease is often prolonged,” he added. 

The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries is taking every measure possible to ensure feral hogs do not become established in Virginia and encourages the harvest of as many of these animals as possible, according to the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries 2012-2013 Hunting and Trapping in Virginia Regulation Digest. 

Once present and reproducing, feral hogs are nearly impossible to eradicate. 

It is illegal to release hogs into the wild in Virginia, according to the Hunting and Trapping in Virginia Regulation Digest.

Lovelace asked anyone experiencing problems with feral hogs on their property to contact the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries or the local extension office in Halifax.

These agencies will assist in trapping the wild hogs, he said. Hogs are considered a nuisance species and can be killed or trapped at anytime.  

However, Lovelace said baiting is illegal in Virginia after Sept. 1.

Baiting attracts feral hogs giving them a food source and promotes their survival and breeding.

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Terrestrial Program Manager Glen Askins and District Wildlife Biologist Aaron Proctor will discuss the topic of feral hogs in more detail during the Aug. 20 seminar in Scottsburg.

Lovelace said the men will talk about the history and location of hogs in Virginia, the risk and problems associated with free ranging hogs, current laws concerning hogs in Virginia and future management consideration.

Lovelace and Fisher urge the public to attend this seminar to learn more about feral hogs in this area.

For more information, contact the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries at 434-525-7522 or visit the following websites:

USDA-Wildlife Services Feral Swine Facts

SCWDS data base on feral swine populations (select feral swine from the list provided) (scroll down to “wild swine” for list of numerous briefs and articles)