As feral swine continue to pop up in parts of Ohio where they don’t belong, wildlife experts are increasingly convinced that residents are illegally transporting the invasive species from southern states.
No sightings have been confirmed in central Ohio yet, but one wildlife expert called their invasion inevitable.
“For decades, they were only in a handful of states,” said Dave Pauli, senior director of wildlife innovation and response at the U.S. Humane Society. “People are definitely moving them around.”
He said reality-television shows such as A&E’s Lady Hoggers and American Hoggers have inspired people to import the pigs, which have huge populations in states including Florida, Georgia and Texas.
“There are a lot of guys that think, ‘Gee, it’d be nice if I had hogs here,’ ” Pauli said. Moving these animals from place to place is a problem across the country, he said. “Pretty much, if they’re anywhere outside of Texas, Georgia, Florida and a few others, they’ve been moved.”
Craig Hicks, a wildlife disease biologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, hunts down feral swine in Ohio. He said feral pigs can ruin crops and soil, outcompete native wildlife and carry disease.
The USDA estimates feral swine cost taxpayers more than $1 billion each year in damage and control efforts.
For years, feral pigs were contained mostly in southeastern Ohio. But now they have been found as far north as Ashtabula County near Lake Erie and as far west as Butler County along the Indiana border.
Dr. Leah Dorman, a veterinarian and director of food programs at the Ohio Farm Bureau’s Center for Food and Animal Issues, said that because feral swine can transmit disease to farm pigs, they put Ohio’s $1.8 billion pork industry at risk.She said farmers across the state have reported crop damage.
Hicks, who described his statewide pig-hunting operation as a “one-man show,” euthanizes feral swine that he catches.
Dave Kohler, executive administrator for wildlife management and research at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, said it is illegal to transfer a number of wild animals, including skunks, possums and raccoons. Doing so could be punishable by fine, restitution, imprisonment or seizure of the animal, according to the Ohio Revised Code.
As far as the feral pigs are concerned, he said, state investigators know people are relocating them.
“That’s not a situation in which they’ve migrated naturally,” Kohler said. “The highway system is how those animals were moved, and that’s pretty obvious.”
GOD DAMN HILLBILLIES.