by Scott Miller, Clemson University
Feral hogs are a $115 million problem for the agriculture, livestock and timber industries in South Carolina, according to a Clemson University study on landowners’ perceived damages from the invasive animals.
This is the first time a comprehensive dollar figure has been attached to the ecological and industry damages caused by wild hogs, which reproduce rapidly and are growing in numbers.
“They are ecological zombies. They eat everything. They eat deer fawn. They uproot endangered salamanders. They eat ground-nesting birds and their eggs. They really eat anything,” said Shari Rodriguez, report author and assistant professor in the forestry and environmental conservation department.
The hogs also prey on wildlife and livestock and consume large amounts of agricultural crops and seeds, sprouts and seedlings, which disrupts reforestation. Their rooting, wallowing and nesting behaviors decrease water quality and promote soil erosion. They can also spread diseases like pseudorabies and brucellosis, which can spread to humans.
“It is shocking how many diseases they carry,” Rodriguez said. “They are vectors for a lot of diseases that can be passed on to livestock or other wild animals, too. It’s best to wear gloves when handling them.”
Rodriguez surveyed 2,500 farmers and rural members of the S.C. Farm Bureau to better understand their perceptions of wild hogs and the cost of damage caused by these invasive pigs brought to North America by European settlers centuries ago to hunt. Rodriguez’s report estimates perceived damages based on survey responses but does not report actual damages. The nearly 750 survey responses gave Rodriguez a basis to estimate overall damages in the state, however, and provides insights on landowners’ views on feral hogs and how they control them.