The USDA launched earlier this month a national effort to reduce the devastating damage caused by feral swine.  The $20 million program aims to help states deal with a rapidly expanding population of invasive wild swine that causes $1.5 billion in annual damage and control costs.

“Feral swine are one of the most destructive invaders a state can have,” said USDA Undersecretary Edward Avalos.  “They have expanded their range from 17 to 39 states in the last 30 years and cause damage to crops, kill young livestock, destroy property, harm natural resources, and carry diseases that threaten other animals as well as people and water supplies. It’s critical that we act now to begin appropriate management of this costly problem.”

Alabama farmer Harold Gaines hopes the new federal program will help him get some sleep during planting season. Gaines said last spring, he and his sons, Levi and Dan, worked around the clock to protect fields from feral swine that rooted up seeds and destroyed crops, he told the Alabama Farmers Federation.

“We worked 14-hour days planting, and then the three of us took shifts through the night to guard the fields,” Gaines said. “We can’t continue that on a long-term basis.”

The Wildlife Services program of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will tailor activities to each state’s circumstance and work with other federal, state, tribal and local groups. WS will work directly with states to control populations, test animals for diseases, and research better methods of managing feral swine damage.  A key part of the national program will include surveillance and disease monitoring to protect the health of our domestic swine.

Feral swine have become a serious problem in 78 percent of all states in the country, carrying diseases that can affect people, domestic animals, livestock and wildlife, as well as local water supplies. They also cause damage to field and high-value crops of all kinds from Midwestern corn and soybeans to Southern crops such sugar cane, peanuts, spinach and pumpkins.

“In addition to the costly damage to agricultural and natural resources, the diseases these animals carry present a real threat to our swine populations,” said Avalos. “Feral swine are able to carry and transmit up to 30 diseases and 37 different parasites to livestock, people, pets and wildlife, so surveillance and disease monitoring is another keystone to this program.”