The Potential Impact Of Feral Hogs On Waterfowl

Feral hogs have quickly become one of the most prevalent invasive species in the U.S. The most recent surveys show wild pigs across the southern US from Texas to Virginia with scattered populations now being found in Northern Michigan and Canada. With the US population of feral hogs estimated to be over six million the damage they create is extensive. Texas may be the one state that experiences the worst of the pig infestation with more than 2 and a half of the six million total being found here.

Feral Pigs in a River Bottom on the Texas Prairie

Where Did Feral Hogs Come From?

Common as they are in the American South, it might be hard to believe that feral hogs are an invasive species. Brought to the Americas by early settlers and explorers as a source of food, these swine flourished in the wild. Their population has spread significantly since then, causing problems for ranchers and farmers due to their destructive nature. They travel in large packs, searching for food by uprooting the topsoil and creating ravaged patches of land if left unchecked.

The American Hog

The wild hogs that populate the Americas today were once domesticated pigs that had gotten free and turned feral. After humans populated and established what is now America, Russian boars were brought over for the purpose of sport hunting. These wild boars then interbred with the feral pigs, creating a combination of the two species that was then introduced to the population.

In short, the population of hogs found today is made up of feral pigs, Russian boars, and a hybrid species. There are 35 states or more that wild hogs can be found in, a majority of which are located in the South. From Texas to Florida, hogs can be found in troves. Reaching as far up as Missouri, their population is nearly as dense. They can also be found all throughout California.

The Threat of Pigs on Waterfowl

Pigs are very disruptive to any environment and as their population grows forcing them to expand their range, they could soon move into waterfowl nesting grounds. When wild pigs wallow, it leaves behind an area with mangled vegetation and thick compacted mud. These pigs also root, which means they use their snouts to cut channels into the dirt in search of roots or anything else they deem edible. When you see a field where pigs have been rooting, it looks like several small plows tilled up the dirt at random. Both of these destructive behaviors degrade the vegetation, soil, and water within the ecosystem.

Ducks From A December Duck Hunt

Ducks and other waterfowl rely heavily on wetlands, forests, and prairie for their nesting grounds. North America’s Boreal Forrest supports more than 12 million ducks every year. This includes more than 50% of the population of 10 separate duck species and 25% of 7 others. Ducks that nest in other environments like pintails are still not safe. Pintails nest in croplands and prairies which are already getting hit hard by feral hogs across the U.S. and Canada.

Pigs are well known to eat anything and everything including ducks and duck eggs. If they invade and expand in an ecosystem like the boreal forest, the prominent waterfowl nesting areas of 17 duck species are at risk of being decimated. While habitat destruction, changing agricultural practices, and water quality issues are already leading to declines in some waterfowl species, feral hogs could cause irreversible losses.

How to Hog Hunt

If you want to hunt hogs the most effective way to do that is by baiting them. Hogs love corn and most animal food sources, and if it’s in the area, they will find it. If you live in a state where baiting deer is legal then it’s the same process as deer hunting. Any hunting blinds can be used just make sure to set them up in an advantageous position downwind. If your state prohibits baiting deer then be very careful about where and how you hunt hogs. One key thing to keep in mind before setting out feeders is that pigs are very smart and crafty critters. Every time you shoot at a pig which is rarely alone, they learn, and fewer will return each time.

Hog Hunting in South Texas

If you want to have the maximum advantage then night hunting pigs is the best approach. Using red or green lights to shoot pigs is effective because they don’t see light like we do. By far the most expensive but effective method for getting your rifle pointed at a pig is to use a thermal scope. This will give you a black-and-white view of your surroundings. A warm pig will have a stark contrast to the cooler vegetation around it. Thermal scopes cost a couple thousand dollars or more, but it’s by far the most efficient and effective piece of equipment.

To hunt a property with lights or a thermal, drive around before dark and throw corn in the roads you wish to hunt later. Pick these spots carefully making sure that there is a vantage point a safe distance away that's also not going to blow your scent to them. Late at night get in the truck and drive the same roads you fed stopping at each spot. Don't drive right up to your vantage point. Park a few hundred yards away and stalk up to your spot and look for pigs. This is one of the most fun ways to hunt for hogs and while it’s somewhat unconventional, it's a damn good time.