Coastal Loss Series, Part Four: What do hogs have to do with coastal loss? Plenty!

This is the fourth of a four part series focused on Coastal Loss and presented by the NOTG Conservation Committee. Thanks to Carro for these informative articles!

Feral hogs (Sus scrofa), were introduced as domestic pigs in the 1500’s by European explorers. They now number over 700,000 in Louisiana and are found in all 64 parishes. Sexually mature at 6 months, wild hogs can produce 6-12 piglets twice a year.

Considered by some conservation groups as the #1 invasive species in terms of detriment, hogs cause millions of dollars in agricultural, cultural, and coastal damage annually. Feral hogs are omnivores and can adapt to nearly any environment from desert to marsh to piney woods and hardwoods and can even survive in sub-arctic conditions. Hardy and adaptive, hogs eat everything from grubs, acorns and herbaceous plant roots to bird and turtle eggs, chicks and fawns. They out-compete other animals for food and destroy habitat for native animals such as ground dwelling birds.

Hogs’ insatiable appetite for acorns reduces germination of these native hardwoods which are important for water retention during storms. These porcine bull dozers root on marshes and levees, weakening the plant material vital to holding the soil in place. Bare soil that isn’t washed away is now vulnerable to invasive species.

According to Louisiana Wildlife & Fisheries, statisticians have determined that 75 percent of the feral hog population must be harvested simply to maintain a static population. A number of possible solutions are being researched. At present, hog hunting season is “open 365 days per year” to combat their growing numbers, and approximately 350,000 animals are harvested annually.