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Home / Hunting / Game Guide / Hoofed Mammals / Feral Pig

HUNTING
FIELD GUIDE

Hoofed Mammals
Feral Pig
Sus scrofa
Wild Boar/Wild Hog/Razorback

Description

A medium-size hoofed mammal with a truncate, flexible, yet tough cartilaginous snout disc like that of the domestic pig. Coat usually coarser and denser than that of domestic pig; has dense undercoat in winter. Extremely variable in color: most often black, but may be brown, gray, or black and white. Tail moderately long; lightly haired; hangs straight (never coiled). Upper tusks (modified canines), usually 3–5" (7.5–12.5 cm), but up to 9" (23 cm) long, curl out and up along sides of mouth. Lower canines smaller; turn out slightly; rise outside mouth and point back toward eyes. Young have pale longitudinal stripes on body until 6 weeks of age. Ht to 3' (90 cm); L 4' 4"–6' (1.32–1.82 m); T to 12" (30 cm); Wt male 165–440 lb (75–200 kg), female 77–330 lb (35–150 kg). Warning If harassed or wounded, can cause serious injury with tusks. Flesh often full of parasitic worms. Similar Species Collared Peccary is much smaller, more uniformly and thickly coated; grayish, usually with light collar over shoulders; has vestigial tail and upper tusks that point down. Larger domestic pig has much rounder body, shorter legs, and tail that is usually coiled; has finer, thinner, less shaggy fur; lacks mane and long curved tusks. Hybrids between Wild Boar and feral pig have intergrading characteristics; are sometimes spotted black and tan, and are frequently less hairy.

Breeding

Mates at any time of year, but there are usually 2 peaks about 6 months apart: one January–February, and one in early summer (as with domestic pig). After gestation of about 16 weeks, 3–12 young are born, brown with 9 or 10 pale longitudinal body stripes; length at birth 6–8" (15–20 cm).

Habitat

Variable: densely forested mountainous terrain, brushlands, dry ridges, and swamps.

Range

Larger feral pigs range almost entirely in the following locations:
  • Western North Carolina
  • Eastern Tennessee
  • West Virginia
  • Santa Cruz Island, California
  • Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties, California
Smaller numbers (usually in preserves) are found in the following locations:
  • New Hampshire
  • Pennsylvania
  • Vermont
  • Possibly other states
Smaller feral pigs may also be found in the following U.S. states:
  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Georgia
  • Florida
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • South Carolina
  • Texas

Discussion

Native to Europe and Asia, the feral pig first appeared in North America in 1893, when a herd of 50 animals was brought from Germany’s Black Forest to a hunting preserve in New Hampshire’s Blue Mountains. Russian Wild Boars were released in 1910 and 1912 on a North Carolina preserve near the Tennessee border; in 1925, near Monterey, California; and a few years later on Santa Cruz Island, off the California coast. Some of these animals escaped from preserves, and many of their progeny bred with feral descendants of domestic pigs. The pure-blooded feral pig is still found in the wild in North Carolina, in Tennessee, in parts of California, and in preserves in other states. Elsewhere North America’s wild swine are hybrids or pigs descended from purely domestic stock.Especially active at dawn and dusk, the feral pig is a fast runner and a good swimmer. It usually trots from one foraging area to another, then slows to a walk. Its wanderings seldom exceed beyond an area of 10 square miles (26 sq km) if food is abundant, but may extend to as far as 50 square miles (130 sq km) when forage is poor. Where oaks are prevalent, acorns are a staple; this animal also favors beech, hickory, and pecan nuts. In late fall and winter, when the nuts accumulated on the forest floor have all been eaten, the feral pig leaves to forage in swamps and marshes. It relies on a wide variety of vegetation, including roots, tubers, grasses, fruit, and berries, but also eats crayfish, frogs, snakes, salamanders, mice, the eggs and young of ground-nesting birds, young rabbits, and any other easy prey or carrion encountered while foraging; it has even been known to kill and eat fawns. The sow and her young forage in a family group, usually of about half a dozen animals, but they sometimes join other groups in herds of up to 50 individuals. Except during the breeding season, mature males are solitary or band in small groups. During the two breeding seasons, males gather as females enter estrus; the males fight for dominance, slashing at each other ’s shoulders. Dominant males mate first, allowing other males to mate later. At one week old, piglets follow the sow. They are weaned at three months, and at six weeks lose the pale, longitudinal body stripes they had at birth. Young disperse the following year, are sexually mature at one and a half years, and are fully grown at five to six years.In America, the feral pig does not grow as large as the boars in some parts of Europe, probably because it must compete for ground food—especially nuts—with so many squirrels and deer. While some European boars weigh over 500 pounds (225 kg), few American boars reach 350 pounds (160 kg). Bears, Bobcats, and feral dogs occasionally kill a baby boar, but predation is light on older individuals because the tusks of a mature pig are as effective for fighting as for rooting; the chief predators are humans. Life span is generally 15 to 25 years. In some states, there are hunting seasons for feral pigs; in others, where they have become agricultural pests, they can be killed at any time. Feral pig populations are neither endangered nor monitored by game departments as a valuable resource.

Track

Cloven but more rounded and splayed than deer tracks, 2 1/2" (65 mm) long; hindprints often half covering foreprints; stride 18" (460 mm). In soft earth, front dewclaws (low, long, and pointed) almost always print as crescents outside and behind main print; hind dewclaws print as dots.

Sign

Rooted-up earth; tree rubs from ground level to 36" (900 m) high, with clinging hair or mud; muddy wallows. Nest: Small, grass-lined depression that sow hollows out in a pile of grass and branches in a secluded thicket. Scat: Massed pellets or sausage-like segments, usually found with other sign. Trail: Narrower than domestic pig's, almost a single line.

 

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