Hog Workshops Draw Crowds

Anyone caught breaking the "hog rules," could face fines up to $5,000 and loss of hunting right for three years.

John Trussell | February 6, 2019

Recently the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service hosted a series of workshops across Georgia to educate hunters, farmers and the general public about the threat of wild pigs on the environment. Co-sponsors were the Georgia DNR, The Georgia Farm Bureau, the Georgia Department of Agriculture and the University of Georgia. This writer attended the meeting in Hawkinsville, which was well attended with 140 participants. The speakers were very informative, and attendees were treated to a great complimentary lunch, which of course was some great cooked BBQ pork.

The huge problem of wild pigs in Georgia was summarized by Matt Ondovchik, a USDA biologist and Feral Swine Coordinator. He said most Georgians either have wild pigs or will likely have them soon.

Matt says that humans first domesticated wild pigs about 9,000 years ago, and we have been in a close biological dance with them ever since. Wild pigs were first introduced to the American landscape by Desoto and other Spanish explorers in the early 16th century. Explorers landed first in Florida and released domestic stock as a quick food source for when they returned to the area. Because of their unmatched survival ability, pig populations quickly expanded. Later, European settlers would practice free range farming, allowing pigs and other livestock to roam the landscape freely and unfenced, where they could feed on wild vegetation and acorns. Farmers would attempt to round up the pigs later, but unclaimed pigs further contributed to the feral population. Another contributing factor to the feral hog population was the Great Depression. During this time, domestic stock were released by farmers who migrated to cities in search of work. Today, wild pigs can be found in 45 states in the U.S. 

Since farmers are the primary victims of wild pig damage, Matt says it’s important to recognize their signs and destruction. He says that since wild pigs are nothing more than domestic hogs that have reverted to a wild state, they look very similar to domestic pigs seen on farms across the country. Members of the Suidae genus have a coarse and sparse hair coat that varies in color. Pigs are often seen in black, red, red and white, black and white, or red and black. 

Often landowners and farmers do not realize they have hogs until they actually see them or the damage they cause. Therefore, it is important for landowners and farmers to familiarize themselves with hog sign, so they can take action before the pigs become a problem. Feral hog sign includes:

• Tracks: Tracks are similar to a deer but with a more rounded front toe.

• Nesting or Bedding Sites: These are areas under limbs, vines or in dense grassy locations that provide cover from predators and from wind and weather. Bedding areas can be identified by overlaid grass or clearings in the understory that has not been heavily rooted.

• Rooting: Overturned soil that looks as if it has been plowed with a piece of farm equipment. This is a result of hog feeding behavior and causes extensive damage.  

• Wallows: Often found in wet locations, wallows are impressions in the ground where hogs roll their bodies in mud as a means of keeping cool.

• Tree or Post Rubs: Seen on trees usually 12 to 30 inches off the ground where hogs scrape off the mud from wallowing.

Tree Tusking: This creates scars or complete bark removal at the bases of trees, usually 18 to 24 inches off the ground. This is a form of scent marking for males.

Their feeding behavior upturns soil, promoting erosion and causing damage to crops, fields, tree roots and food plots. Wild pigs are opportunistic omnivores. This means they will consume almost anything from mast crops and agriculture crops to grub worms and carrion. Although wild pigs are not predators, they will consume deer fawns, eggs of ground nesting birds, livestock and many other food items. During the fall, they eat vast amounts of acorns and hickory nuts, and they can also graze on winter wheat like a cow or munch on peanuts and even peanut straw. During the summer, they can cause thousands of dollars of damage to watermelons in a single night. Often, they won’t consume a whole watermelon but just one bite ruins the fruit for the market.

Ultimately, the size of a wild pig depends on food availability. Adult males on average can weigh up to 220 pounds, while females can average about 155 pounds; however, if they have available food resources, larger sizes can be reached. Matt says that less than 5 percent of wild pigs will exceed 300 pounds, and that is usually in an area where the pigs are being well-fed. A wild pig that has to search for food rarely gets to a large size.

Matt said that although hunting of wild pigs is popular and does provide a great sporting opportunity for hunters, it does not remove enough wild pigs from the environment to control the growing wild pig population. Pigs are considered non-game animals that can be hunted year-round during day and nighttime hours with a wide range of weapons and techniques on private property.

On WMAs, they can be taken during specific seasons with certain weapons. GON just released it’s WMA Hog Special in its February issue outlining good places to hunt this month.

Matt said the most effective method of removing wild pigs is by trapping. The small box traps that are often used to catch pigs do little to fix the problem. Usually, only one to two pigs are caught out of a family sounder unit of 10 to 20, thus little population control is gained. He says if you really want to control pig numbers, you must eliminate every single pig in an area, whenever possible. This is best accomplished with large, remote-controlled traps, such as the Jager Pro M.I.N.E. Equipment system, which was on display at the workshop.

Jager Pro’s M.I.N.E. is an acronym for “Manually Initiated Nuisance Elimination.” This trapping system was developed during three years of research and designed to capture the entire sounder group at one time. The M.I.N.E. Gate is the main component of the high-volume hog trapping system. The trap gate is 8 feet wide and triggered with a text message from your cell phone to a M.I.N.E. Camera. The M.I.N.E. Gate may also be triggered through an onsite transmitter with a 250-yard range. The receiver control box and onsite transmitter operate on a 12-volt DC power source.

Matt says the key to the success of this unit is letting the pigs feed into it for several days until you can observe that all the pigs can be captured when the gate is dropped. Once the gate is dropped, all the pigs can be quickly killed and removed. He says that it is not necessary to move the trap once the pigs are removed, and that fresh pigs coming in the next day are none the wiser. Often several groups of pigs can visit a trap at different times of day, and it may take several trapping sessions to get all the pigs captured.

Boarbuster, another trapping system to consider, was also on display during the workshop. It also uses remote-controlled activation triggers with remote visual capabilities, so you can see what is going on at the trap and when it’s time to activate it. While the Jager M.I.N.E. system drops a gate, the Boarbuster system drops the whole pen down on the pigs.

Matt says to achieve wild hog control, you must remove 75 percent or more of the hogs from an area, and these systems can help you reach that goal.

Hunters, farmers and everyone who encounters wild pigs needs to be concerned about diseases carried by pigs. A zoonotic disease is an animal borne disease that can be contracted by humans. Infection occurs through contact with infected bodily fluids and ingesting improperly prepared meat or improper handling of infected tissues. Zoonotic diseases may also be transmitted through contaminated water supplies or through tick bites.

Of the wide array of diseases that are carried by wild pigs and can be contracted by humans include: Brucellosis, Trichinosis, Leptospirosis, Salmonellosis, Toxoplasmosis, Giardiasis, Rabies, Hepatitus E, Swine Influenza, and Cryptosporidiosis.

For more info on feral swine diseases, go to Another great resource is

Matt Ondovchik demonstrates how the BoarBuster traps works.

Wild pigs cause millions of dollars of damage in Georgia each year. Effective Jan 1, 2019, under Georgia Department of Agriculture rule 40-13-15, “No person shall transport live feral hogs anywhere in this State unless authorized to do so pursuant to a valid Feral Hog Transport Permit, which shall be carried on the person of the permit holder at all times during transportation of live feral hogs. Live feral hogs shall only be transported to an approved slaughter facility, licensed Feral Hog Facility, or other premises for immediate personal consumption unless a special written exemption is obtained from the Georgia State Veterinarian prior to transport. Live feral hogs transported for immediate personal consumption shall be slaughtered within 24 hours from being taken and shall not leave the transport conveyance except for immediate slaughter.”

The penalty for disobeying the law is stiff. Any persons convicted of the illegal transport or release of live feral hogs may be subject to revocation of hunting privileges for up to three years and a fine up to $5,000 but not less than $1,500.

Transport and possession of live feral hogs are regulated by Georgia Department of Agriculture. For more information, contact the Animal Industry Division at (404) 656-3671.

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