WILD BOAR: The cockroach of mammals. (Photo: minds-eye/Flickr)
Hunters in Illinois are out scouting deer this time of year, but many are coming home with an unexpected catch that the state is eager to see destroyed.
Introduced to America in the 1500s by Spanish explorers in the South, feral swine are now roaming at least 35 states. The Eurasian hogs (often referred to as razorbacks or wild boar) were brought as a food supply, but as they escaped from captivity over the years, they took to the woods and grew in numbers.
Small numbers of the animals have been seen in Illinois since the 1990s, many brought in trucks to be dumped in the countryside for hunting purposes. Until recently, their population has been largely controlled by farmers. But now more and more sightings have proven that the boar have moved out of the southern counties and into the middle of the state, often seeking refuge in watery areas and near good sources of food.
Even in small numbers, the presence of wild hogs can be devastating to the ecosystem. They can grow to 500 pounds and eat voraciously. The animals devour everything from plants, worms and insects to turkey eggs, young farm animals and baby deer. In searching for fodder, they dig 2-8 inches, rooting up native grasses and agricultural land. Many other species are left without enough to maintain their own diets, as the hogs even consume acorns, nuts and wild berries.
These beasts leave prolific damage in their wake, causing soil erosion, and depleting the habitat of native animals. The pigs are also quite the procreators: each sow can deliver two litters per year, with up to 12 offspring annually. With their enormous size and damaging tusks, they have no natural predators. And as a bonus, these animals are known to carry up to 30 different diseases, which can transfer to other animals as well as humans.
Due to their potential threat, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) has asked hunters to keep their eyes peeled not only for the hogs, but for any indication of their presence. In Illinois feral hogs have no legal protection, which means that landowners are free to take care of them via firearms and trapping, as long as they have a firearm owner's identification card (FOID).
To report a population of wild hogs, the IDNR asks that you call the IDNR Division of Wildlife Resources at 217-785-2511.
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