Their physical appearance is at the bottom of the list you’d describe as “stealthy”, yet they evade being sighted and travel like ghosts, usually at night. They breed like rabbits. They eat like …well, they eat a lot. Their destructive power is boundless and they are probably the most misunderstood species of wildlife in Ohio. You can call them wild boar or feral pigs or wandering hogs, but whatever you call them, be polite because they are already here.
Quietly but surely feral swine have been creeping out of their traditional range in the deep forest and rolling hills of Southeast Ohio and making their way north. Although sightings are reported, they are often disregarded with the explanation that a single pig must have escaped from a local farm or somebody saw a “white elephant”. But there’s no disputing the facts when somebody hits one with a car.
In 2006 in Champaign County, between Columbus and Dayton, road crews found a dead wild boar far from any known population. There were other scattered sightings over the years. Then in June of 2012 a wild boar was killed by a car in Geauga county; the species confirmed by DNA testing. Incidents like these might have you wondering how long it will be before we’re dealing with these pests here at home.
Hold on to your hats, folks.
According to information provided by the ODNR Division of Wildlife, an isolated population of Feral or Wild Swine presently exists in central Lorain County.It’s difficult to explain exactly where to find a roaming heard, but generally South of Ohio Route 303, East of Ohio Route 58, to West of Diagonal Road and North of Peck Wadsworth Rd is their recent area of range. In this vicinity I’ve personally investigated several reported wild pig sightings, working from accounts given by locals(most who did not know one another) all reporting wild pigs within an area of a few square miles at the same time.Although I wasn’t able to put eyes on the beasts, I found pig tracks, muddy runs and rooting signs typical of wild swine.
Without a carcass to do DNA testing there is no way of telling for sure if the animals at large are wild hogs, or feral pigs. That is to say, are they actual wild animals born and bred to roam, or are they escapees of a local farm? I made a survey of the hog raising farms in the area and I found at least one where I would describe the fence repairs as “suspect”. Having raised pigs a few times I can tell you, there is no such thing as a hog “proof” fence, only hog “resistant”. Fully grown at more than two hundred and fifty pounds, they use their compact weight and burrowing skills to try every staple in every post, and every inch of wire fence. Having worked to round up escaped cattle, horses, and pigs in my life’s experiences, I would rather give alligators a try than corral pigs again.
But there is a silver lining to this situation; it turns out that pigs are made out of pork! Although leaner than farm raised hogs, their wild counterparts are generally very tasty and only slightly gamey as they are usually feeding on grain crops rather than wild mast.Ed Rymut guides hog hunters in western Alabama and he says that, like venison, you may need to add fat when cooking it in a crock pot or making a roast, but otherwise they make delightful chops.
The question which remains is how these animals are to be regarded. Some hunters are excited about the prospect of an exotic species to hunt locally. According to the Ohio Division of Wildlife feral swine are a nuisance and may be harvested any hour of any day of the year without bag limits. According to the Farm Bureau, feral swine are a danger to crops with great destructive power and reproductive potential that could ruin many fields.
Wildlife officials seem most concerned not with the spread of wild pigs as a species, but with the spread of disease from wild pigs to other species, including pets and humans. This may mean that they have resigned themselves to the eventuality that hogs will soon be everywhere, or it may represent a frustration that not enough is being done to combat their proliferation. As a prominent Texas wildlife official put it, “This is not a problem we are going to barbecue ourselves out of.”