Feral pigs are a problem in 39 U.S. states and the Northwest is not immune. That’s why officials from four Washington agencies issued a reminder to residents last week to be on the lookout.
So, far this year, there have been only 11 reports of feral pigs in Washington state. That number is up, but Justin Bush said that’s because the state’s Invasive Species Council is trying to raise awareness. He said if Washington were to become a permanent home for feral pigs, they’d “do really well.”
“They’re known to eat apples, they’re known to eat hops,” Bush said. “They wallow in riparian environments and wetlands, which Washington has a lot of. They also take food from livestock and in some instances, they even prey on small livestock.”
Bush, the Council’s executive coordinator, said an established feral swine population could damage more than $8.5 billion worth of Washington crops.
“We would have a significant challenge in trying to manage a large population if it did establish [in Washington],” Bush said. “Because we have so much canopy cover and so much forested land, that it would be very difficult to manage a sizable population, so it’s critical that we prevent that from happening.”
Four years ago, Oregon was home to between 2,000 and 5,000 feral pigs. Because they can be extremely aggressive and carry disease, they have been placed on Oregon’s list of its 100 most dangerous invaders.
Oregon’s Invasive Species Council unveiled the ‘Squeal on a pig’ hotline in 2012. If you call to report a feral pig in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, you’ll find yourself talking to an operator at a national call center in Portland.
Two types of feral swine roam the country: European wild hogs were introduced centuries ago. Farm pigs are the more likely culprit in the Northwest. Those can go feral within three years if they are let loose.
There is a legal open season on the animals in both Oregon and Washington, but it’s not necessarily the greatest source of bacon. According to Bush, the animals carry more than 30 disease and parasites that can make any recovered meat inedible.