Feral hogs are an invasive specie that once established in an area they are nearly impossible to eradicate. Most times we have to learn to adjust to having them around and the destruction and the problems they bring. The south east part of North Carolina it appears to be have a growing hog problem.
Tom Padgett, a N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission biologist, said they started popping up in force in North Carolina, including in Brunswick and Pender counties, about seven to 10 years ago.
Most, Norville said, followed food-plentiful low-lying areas, creeks and rivers up from South Carolina where they’ve lived for centuries. Others were brought here on purpose for hunters’ enjoyment, even though it is illegal to transport them across state lines. Still others were domestic pigs that escaped from pens or hog houses and went feral.
If let out into the woods, the offspring of a domestic pig – the cute pink ones – will transform into feral hogs in just two or three generations, Norville said.
Their snouts will elongate. They’ll grow tusks several inches long and thick, wiry hair. Their rear quarters will become skinnier and their chests deeper. A thick shield of cartilage will develop in the chest to protect vital organs from fights with other boars. This shield is so thick, hunters must ensure they choose bullet calibers powerful enough to penetrate it.
It’s hard to put a number on their population, Norville said. But whatever it is, it will inevitably increase over time.
He said a sow can begin breeding at only six months of age. She can have a litter of four to 12 piglets about every three or four months during any time of the year. These piglets have a low mortality rate because the mother is extremely protective.
Then six months later, those female piglets can breed, and so on.
“We’re talking exponential growth here,” Norville said. “Normal hunting operations don’t tend to control them.”
Grown feral pigs in Southeastern North Carolina average about 150 pounds, Padgett said. But hunters’ motion cameras have taken photos of pigs in the 300 to 400 pound range, he said.
There are no natural predators. Norville encourages anyone who finds a wild pig on their property to go ahead and kill it.
He’s had reports of wild pig sightings on farms and in subdivisions.
The Star News had a pretty long article that is worth checking out. While feral hogs are expanding the demand to hunt them seems to out strip the opportunities to hunt. Access to areas where they are concentrated are often leased up, unavailable, or pricey to hunt. Probably one of the most common questions I get ask is “where can I hunt hogs?” If everything I’ve read and been told turns out to be true about the hog we’ll all have plenty of hunting opportunities because of their rapid growth.
I have had some feral hog to eat and I can attest that it is some good stuff.
Harvey Bell, a Brunswick County farmer with a wild pig problem, said he and his friends find their meat quite tasty. He roasts them in a barrel cooker.
“I couldn’t tell much difference in them,” Bell said. “We skin them instead of scald them, and cook them like you do a commercial hog. It’s just easier to skin them” because their hair is so thick, he said.
In addition to using feral hogs in traditional eastern North Carolina barbecue, some locals are turning the animals into fine cuisine.
Star News had a companion article about eating feral hog. In a day and age when newspapers are shying away from hunting articles it’s good to see Star News and a few others that still cover our traditions.