The range of feral swine is increasing across the United States. Originally brought over by early explorers, swine are an old world species not native North America. Over time swine that have escaped or been released into the wild have bred and increased the overall population; and while they are the same species, these wild animals look very different from pigs raised on modern farms.
While feral hogs can cause tremendous property damage to lawns, golf courses, and wildlife habitat, The Fusion Center’s concern rests primarily in their potential as disease vectors. As their range spreads, consider how this would affect the spread of a Foreign Animal Disease. If Foot and Mouth Disease were to emerge in this country in a region where feral swine may become reservoirs, eradication of the disease would be difficult if not impossible. There are an estimated 6 million feral swine in at least 35 states with a high concentration in Texas and California. For reference, please see the 2016 Map of Feral Swine Populations by County : http://swine.vet.uga.edu/nfsms/information/map2016.htm .
USDA/Wildlife Services conducts disease surveillance activities on feral swine, often in cooperation with State wildlife agencies. The goal of this surveillance is to understand the prevalence of different diseases of concern; those diseases that impact agricultural species or to humans.
The Fusion Center recently spoke with Dr. Jennifer McDougle of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Dr. McDougle reported that surveillance of feral swine in California has historically shown evidence of pseudorabies infection in these animals, and that recent surveillance has shown an expansion of pseudorabies and brucellosis detection. This increase in brucellosis is very concerning, as it is a zoonotic disease.
It is advised that you do your best to protect your collections from contact with these animals wherever possible. This includes understanding the risk associated with using these animals as a food source, such as carcass feeding for carnivore enrichment. Employees and volunteers that have contact with or live close to sites where feral swine are within 20 feet of their property should be made aware of the risks and biosecurity through PPE and foot baths should be utilized. Consider isolation and blood testing of new swine additions for pseudorabies and brucellosis.
To learn more about pseudorabies and brucellosis, great references can be found at the American Association of Zoo Veterinarian’s Infectious Disease Manual
Or the Iowa State’s Center for Food Security and Public Health
Feral swine activity can be reported to the USDA using the phone number 1-866-4-USDA-WS.