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Rooting Out Wild Hogs

Last year, residents of the Fowler Ridge neighborhood in Covington called police to complain about a wild pig chasing children in the area.

Steven Dobey, a wildlife biologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, was surprised when he saw a photo of the animal trotting down the sidewalk. “When I saw the photo of it,” he says, “my first thought was, ‘Is that real or did someone Photoshop it?’ Unfortunately, it was real.”

Wild hogs have roamed the Americas since Spanish explorers brought them along during their forays in the 1500s. Some believe Christopher Columbus brought pigs with him even earlier.

Although pigs aren’t native to this country, they quickly adapted and spread throughout the Southern states. However, wild pigs did not gain a foothold in Kentucky until recently.

In the late 1990s, feral hogs remained contained within a few counties near the Tennessee border. Today, biologists have confirmed wild pigs in 32 Kentucky counties.

“The number may be even higher,” Dobey says. “People knew about the wild hogs in Covington for five to six years before anyone told the department about them. We need people to tell us what’s out there.”

Wild hogs are bad news for hunters, wildlife watchers, and native plants and animals. A group of rooting hogs can destroy a person’s yard or carve a large swath through a farmer’s crops overnight. Their presence may chase wildlife away or strip an area of so much natural food that few other animals remain. Rooting animals can prevent a forest from regenerating because they destroy tree sprouts.

Wild pigs will eat nearly anything, including turkey and quail eggs. Deer and turkey hunting within an area can notably worsen after feral pigs move in. These swine pose such an environmental threat that Kentucky has always declared an open season on the animals.

The spread of wild hogs in Kentucky exhibits an unnatural pattern. Instead of spreading gradually from a source area, these animals are popping up in several places at once. Unfortunately, evidence indicates that, in some areas, people are illegally stocking wild hogs for hunting. In fact, the release of pigs from other areas seriously worsens the issue because they carry a host of diseases, several of which can be transmitted to people.

Deer and turkey hunters who don’t want their hunting ruined are quick to report the presence of wild hogs to Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. But all wildlife watchers can help the department track the spread of wild hogs. With better information, department biologists can deal more effectively with these destructive animals.

If you see a wild pig, please call the department at (800) 858-1549, or send an e-mail to info.center@ky.gov
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