Chew on this while you’re waiting for the turkey to come out of the oven: The feral hogs are coming!

Feral pigs roam near a ranch in Mertzon, Texas, in 2009. The good news for Mainers is that the nasty critters aren’t here. Associated Press/Eric Gay

Or not. It depends on how much you fret about foreign invasions.

Feral hogs – also known as wild boars, feral swine, razorbacks, Russian or Eurasian boars or, my favorite, piney woods rooters – wandered into the news this week when my hometown Buxton Police Department posted on its Facebook page an alert to be on the lookout for “Free-Ranging Feral Hogs (or) Escaped Domestic Pigs.”

The good news: They’re not here. Yet.

The not-so-good news: They number around 6 million across 38 states and cause an estimated $1.5 billion in property damage each year.

The truly horrific news: On Sunday a passel of feral hogs attacked and killed a 59-year-old Texas woman while she walked from her car to the front door of an older couple for whom she worked as a caretaker.


“We haven’t seen any,” Buxton Police Chief Troy Cline reassured me Wednesday. “I haven’t heard or had any reports of any.”

The Facebook warning was posted by Buxton’s animal control officer, who each year passes on a U.S. Department of Agriculture notice that the feral hog population continues to expand and that it’s up to each and every one of us to sound the alarm should one waddle into our neck of the woods.

A little history: Pigs in the New World go all the way back to the 16th century and Christopher Columbus, who introduced them on his second voyage to the West Indies to ensure a stable food supply for future expeditions.

They haven’t stopped multiplying since.

From domestic hogs that escape their farms and quickly revert to wild behavior, to hunting clubs that import boars from Europe and Asia, to hybrids of the two, the feral hog population in the United States has tripled over the last 20 years. As one expert noted to the New York Times back in 2013, it’s nothing short of a “national explosion of pigs.”

The USDA posts annual distribution maps showing the hogs’ mostly northward migration. And that’s where things get interesting: Since 2004, the maps have shown feral hogs in a small cluster of counties straddling the New Hampshire-Vermont border. More on that in a minute.


Here in Maine, both the USDA and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife stand guard against feral hogs in search of the way life should be.

Kendall Marden, a regional wildlife biologist with IF&W, said in a telephone interview Wednesday that no feral hogs have yet come to his attention. Still, he said, they are “certainly a concern in portions of the country and we want to be prepared for things, given the impact they can have.”

To that end, Maine has a “memorandum of agreement” with federal agencies and others that spells out the appropriate actions should feral hogs decide to invade. Which, with climate change and all, they might do were Maine to have a winter with little or no snow. (I know, it’s almost December and the ground is still bare. See where I’m going here?)

As for the marauders already at our doorstep, Marden referred me to Corbin Park, a little-known, secretive hunting preserve that covers 25,000 acres in central New Hampshire.

Also known as the Blue Mountain Forest Association, the 40-square-mile hunter’s paradise was founded in the late 19th century by Austin Corbin, a railroad and banking baron. Yearning for a place to hunt exotic species near his boyhood home of Newport, New Hampshire, he bought up some 60 local farms and erected a fence around the entire parcel.

Next, Corbin paid a small fortune to populate his new playground with elk, moose, buffalo, antelope, caribou, reindeer, bighorn sheep, pheasants, Himalayan mountain goats and, last but not least, wild boar.


The uber-exclusive hunting club – scant media coverage it’s attracted over the years puts the membership at just 30 – remains to this day. And while the animals are penned in, the USDA notes on its National Feral Swine Damage Management Program website that “feral swine are strong, clever, and if motivated or agitated can destroy most fences.”

Meaning Maine is cheek-to-jowl with a biological time bomb?

Not quite.

“Pigs don’t naturally disperse a lot,” Marden said. “They tend to stay in their native home ranges.”

Still, assuming they can conquer the White Mountains, those Corbin Park hogs – or any others already out there in the wild – could wreak havoc on Maine if they ever get the urge to go east.

According to the USDA, feral swine carry all sorts of harmful organisms and pathogens that are easily passed on to humans and can cause “leptospirosis, toxoplasmosis, brucellosis, tularemia, trichinellosis, swine influenza, salmonella, hepatitis and pathogenic E. coli.”


And while last weekend’s fatal attack was, according to The New York Times, only the fifth in the United States over almost two centuries, the USDA nevertheless warns, “Feral swine have been aggressive towards and even attacked farmers, golfers, hikers, and picnickers. Aggression can be increased when they associate people with food because of handouts and improper waste disposal.”

They can also cause untold damage rooting through crops and gardens and rubbing against small trees – their way of shedding parasites as they pass through someone else’s private property.

Heck, they even “have the potential to destroy artifacts and history which can never be recovered or replaced,” the USDA says.

So, what to do?

In places where feral hogs already roam, the USDA has studied strategies ranging from “harassment” (which only sends them to your neighbors’ back yard) and “ground shooting” (you’ll never get them all) to “aerial gunning” (effective but expensive) and “contraception” (oral or single injection – either way, wear your running shoes).

Meaning, should they move to Maine, there’s a battle plan in place.


Here in Buxton, Chief Cline was at first a little confused as to why I and another reporter called this week to talk about feral hogs. An equally perplexed Animal Control Officer Adele Jones explained to him that it was the Facebook post, which she’s somehow managed to put out each year until now without media detection.

But now that he knows about those dirty, not-so-little pigs, Cline was pleased to hear that the state and federal governments are both on it. In fact, should feral hogs someday march to the sea, Maine even has an action plan.

“Maybe I need to put an action plan together,” the chief said with a chuckle. “Just to be on the safe side. Then Buxton will be all set.”

On to the turkeys.

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