The U.S. wild pig population is rapidly increasing across the country, which has been characterized as a ticking "feral swine bomb," according to a new report.
"I've heard it referred to as a feral swine bomb," Dale Nolte, manager of the National Feral Swine Damage Management Program (NFSP) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), told The Atlantic.
Nolte said, "they multiply so rapidly. To go from a thousand to two thousand, it's not a big deal. But if you've got a million, it doesn't take long to get to 4 [million], then 8 million."
Feral swine have caused significant damage to property, agriculture (crops and livestock), native species, and ecosystems, with an estimated damage cost of upwards $2.5 billion per annum. The hogs have a reputation for carrying at least 30 viral and bacterial diseases and at least 40 parasites.
Ryan Brook, a University of Saskatchewan biologist who researches feral pigs, estimates these highly invasive species will occupy 386,000 square miles across the country by the end of 2020. At the moment, the hogs are expanding at about 35,000 square miles per year.
Brook said many of the wild pigs are a crossbreed between domestic ones and European wild boar:
"The problem with the hybrids is you get all of the massive benefits of all of that genetics... It creates what we'd call super-pigs.," he said.
According to Nolte, these super pigs are highly intelligent and have a good sense of smell, along with a shield of bone, up to 2 inches thick, around their shoulders, which offers some protection against small-caliber bullets.
At least 1.5 million of these hogs roam Texas, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife; these pigs have four tusks and are brown and black color once they mature. They can weigh between 75 to 250 pounds on average, and run up to 30 mph.
"Pig populations are completely out of control," Brook warned.