Hog numbers a concern in the Smokies
Posted: Thursday, October 2, 2008 10:40 pm
MARYVILLE (AP) — Think of them as warm-blooded rototillers.
Feral hogs use their tusks to dig up soil in search of plants, tubers and grubworms, said Nancy Gray, a spokeswoman for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where the staff is carrying on a 30-year battle to keep their number in check.
The Daily Times reported the number of feral hogs in the park is believed to be between 500 and 1,000.
That’s quite a spread, but the mostly nocturnal animals range across the half-million acres of the park, making them hard to count.
While the animals destroy wildflowers and root up some endangered plants, their preferred diet is much the same as what black bears like — acorns, nuts and berries, Gray said.
“There is no way we will ever remove all the wild hogs,” Gray said. “They are extremely prolific at reproduction.”
Sows have two litters of young each year, averaging five, but ranging up to nine piglets.
Gray said the hogs also spread bacteria, which gets into streams near wetlands where they wallow.
The invasion began after European hogs were released on a hunting reserve on Hooper’s Bald in western North Carolina nearly a century ago.
They got loose in 1920 and escaped into the mountains, where they have bred with stray domestic swine over the decades.
The result is a 125-pound adult that has tusks, a mane and dark, hairy fur, Gray said.
During the 30 years of the National Park Service’s feral hog control program, nearly 10,000 of the pigs have been eliminated.
Personnel try to trap and euthanize 250 to 300 of them per year. So far in 2008, there have been 223 hogs destroyed.
Their carcasses are left for other wild animals to eat.