Feral swine have been making their way up to Georgia and beyond for years, and a local conservation district is working with the state to get a handle on the hogs that have appeared in our area.
Katie Bowker, North Georgia Program Manager for the Georgia Association of Conservation Districts, said the feral swine population is an invasive species, not native to either Georgia or the United States, and they cause some big problems for farmers.
"They cause a huge amount of damage," said Bowker. "Where you have planted a row of corn, they will go all the way don that row and dig it straight up and eat it. They root around in the fields, they tear up the soil, they destroy plants. There isn't a true estimate of how much damage... but a conservative but still accurate would be that each hog could cause about $300 worth of damage."
Considering that each sow - female hog - can have around 10-12 piglets at a time, that means, potentially, a lot of lost revenue for farmers.
The feral swine control initiative is currently available to members of the Upper Chattahoochee River Soil and Water Conservation District, which includes Forsyth, Dawson, Lumpkin, White and Habersham County residents. Other districts in the state are taking part in the initiative, and Bowker said if your county is not participating to contact your local district and report any feral hog sightings.
Bowker said they have researched several methods to control the swine population, but it just keeps getting bigger.
"We have this initiative where we work with local districts to provide this hog trap, and these are automatic trapping systems [the custodians] come out, set it up, it has a gate that is open and it has a very cool, high-tech camera that films the spot so you can be off and away doing something else, and can view the camera," said Bowker. "If [you're] watching pigs come in, [you] can wait until a bunch of them are in there and then hit a button on [your] phone, drop the gate from afar and come back to dispose of the hogs appropriately."
Bowker said the animals unfortunately don't contribute to our agricultural landscape in a positive way, and can carry different diseases, including one that can impact cattle. Bowker said that's why the elimination process became their top choice for controlling the animals.
"In 2019 alone we killed 1,300 feral hogs and so far we're in the sixth month of 2020 and we've already killed 1,051 hogs," said Bowker. The state of Georgia has restrictions on moving the hogs, and Bowker said while eliminating them isn't a pretty thought, it was the most effective solution that did not impact the native wildlife where the hogs were found.
Farmers who wish to participate in the feral swine control initiative will work with a custodian to set up the trapping pens and cameras. The custodian for the Upper Chattahoochee River SWCD is Nathan Turner, and he can be reached at 770-654-9686.
The rise in feral hogs in the state got the attention of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which put almost $1.5 million towards controlling the population in December.