NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — They can cause millions of dollars in damage to land and property, but they can also carry dangerous diseases. That’s why the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA) works year-round to keep wild hogs at bay.

“Wild hogs are an exotic invasive species, like kudzu, and left to their own devices will become a prolific pest,” said Joy Sweaney, who has worked with the TWRA for 15 years.

Sweaney has been involved with the wild hog management in various ways over the years.

“Wild hogs cause property damage, especially in agricultural settings, ruin ecosystem integrity, and carry diseases that cause harm to humans and livestock,” she added.

The most recent survey of how wild hogs have threatened Tennessee was done in 2015.

TWRA sent it to 5,000 randomly chosen farmers and landowners where the hogs were known to be present. Of those only about 32% responded to the survey.

TWRA discovered the total impact of the damage done by the animals was about $26 million that year alone.

In 2015, wild hogs had spread from just being present in 15 counties in Tennessee to nearly 80 out of 95. At the time the Wild Hog Eradication Activation Team or WHEAT was launched to address the problem.

“Many of the small, isolated pockets of hogs that were spread throughout the state have been eradicated and control efforts are now focused on keeping the large, historically well established populations at bay.” 

WHEAT is currently composed of 25 stakeholder organizations. “WHEAT’s approach to wild hog management is by eliminating incentives for individuals to translocate (i.e. stock) wild hogs, enabling landowners to utilize effective means of control and outreach/education.” Sweaney added it’s working.

Since 2015, there hasn’t been any more formal reassessments that can be reported on. “Though eradication efforts have been largely successful, there are still wild hogs in a few places in Tennessee.”

(Adobe stock image)

There are several reasons why the wild hog managements have to be kept in place.

“Wild hogs reproduce very prolifically, and they are very hardy and do well in our climate and habitat, and that makes them hard to control,” explained Sweaney. “Plus, many people do find hunting them enjoyable and don’t understand the counter-intuitive measures that have been put in place.”

Wild hog management not only happens on a state level but also on a national level.

“The wild hog problem has been accepted as national problem and the USDA APHIS (United States Department of Agriculture Animal Plant Health Inspection Service) has been well equipped and performs the bulk of the monitoring and control efforts that take place throughout the country and in Tennessee,” said Sweaney.

The TWRA and the USDA currently and actively work together with landowners and on public land to control wild hogs where they still exist in Tennessee, according to Sweaney.

TWRA first attempted to control wild hogs as early as 1999, when they opened a statewide wild hog season with no bag limit. However, they believe that’s when the population expanded the most because of illegal stocking.

Wild hogs are considered a destructive species. In 2011, they were no longer considered big game animals in Tennessee and were deemed destructive species.

TWRA said it’s illegal to possess, transport, or release live wild hogs. A reward up to $3,500 could be given to anyone who provides information leading to someone who breaks that law.

What makes wild hogs destructive species?

  • Rooting and grubbing behavior: They uproot earth to find roots, grubs, seeds and other food. The behavior can lead to economic and erosion damage.
    • Economic damage for agricultural work: Farmers are constantly working the soil to improve conditions for whatever it is that they are growing and this makes these areas especially attractive to hogs to root in. he estimated economic value of statewide damage caused by wild hogs in 2015 was $26.22 million.
    • Erosion control issues: The rooting can lead to sediment problems in streams and can upset the balance in ecological systems.
  • Exotic status: They compete with native species for resources like food and cover and negatively affect the biodiversity of our local ecosystems. They eat almost anything. Because our plants and animals did not evolve alongside wild hogs, they have developed no defenses against them or mechanisms to survive with them present.
  • Carry diseases: They carry brucellosis and pseudo-rabies both of which pose a very serious disease risk to humans and livestock.
  • Prolific breeder: They are extremely hardy animals that thrive in our climate, and the females have multiple large litters every year starting at young age. That makes them extremely difficult to control, and they easily multiply and become established.

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What can farmers/landowners do about wild hogs?

  • Control wild hogs with any weapon and ammunition legal for taking big game and small game during daylight hours.
  • Use live traps with bait outside of big game season.
  • Elicit the help of others and use control methods beyond what is already available may call their local TWRA office to obtain a landowner exemption.
  • Can also contact USDA APHIS for technical help.
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Tennessee Wildlife Services