Tree Notes is about trees -- especially native trees, trees for wildlife, and trees in history.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Feral pigs damage ecosystems

Releasing pigs into the forest was a terrible idea.

 Feral pigs at Cape Canaveral, FL -- NASA photo

Mast is an old-fashioned word. The term refers to fallen nuts and fruits that are available to wild animals as winter food.

Sometimes we still hear or read about "mast trees". Often the term is used when talking about food sources for wildlife. Personally, I think of mast trees mainly as oaks, hickories, beech, and walnuts.

While browsing through the archives of Scientific American on the Library of Congress website recently, I came across an article about raising pigs on mast.

In 1864 when the article was written, the American chestnut was plentiful, as well as nuts and acorns from the trees I mentioned above. The author, J.T.D. of Springfield, Illinois, also identifies pawpaw, persimmon, haw and the hazelnut as forms of mast.

J.T.D. wrote that hogs who fed on mast produced pork as good as that from corn-fed hogs. He believed that "sweet acorns" were some of the best mast for producing tasty pork. He advised anyone moving to the "West" (west of the Appalachians) to buy land suitable for turning pigs into the forest where they could eat for free.

Sources of U.S. feral pigs

Hogs set loose in the woods by long-ago farmers like J.T.D. are part of the reason there's a feral pig problem in many parts of the United States today. We can't blame the old-time farmers exclusively, though. There are several other sources of today's feral pigs:

1. Early Spanish explorers brought hogs to the New World, some of which went wild.
2. Hogs were released for hunting purposes in several areas of the U.S. about 100 years ago.
3. Some mindless people are releasing pigs into the wild to this day--illegally in most cases -- so they can hunt them.

Feral pigs: Spoilers of nature

Here are just a few reasons why it's undesirable to have feral pigs in the woods.

1. They compete directly with native wildlife for food.
2. They root and wallow in wildlife habitat, wetlands, stands of endangered plants, croplands, and anywhere they go.
3. They eat small animals and the eggs and young of ground-nesting birds.
4. They transmit disease to domestic stock, and even to humans.

Read more here:
Feral Hogs in Michigan
Feral Hogs: Wildlife Enemy Number One (Alabama)
History of Wild Boars
Google search for "feral hogs"

2 comments -- please add yours:

Monado said...

There's now a pig population boom. Pigs have quintupled in the last ten years and are still being released in new states by idiot hunters, so they've gone from 19 to 39 states. And they're cross-breeding with European boars to get larger and meaner. Recall that boar spears have a crossbar to keep the boar from running up the spear at you. I'm going to start carrying a baseball bat when I go to the country.

Genevieve said...

That's probably a good idea. I hope you never have to use it. Fending off a feral hog with a baseball bat would not be fun.

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Enrich your life with the study of trees.

"The power to recognize trees at a glance without examining their leaves or flowers or fruit as they are seen, for example, from the car-window during a railroad journey, can only be acquired by studying them as they grow under all possible conditions over wide areas of territory. Such an attainment may not have much practical value, but once acquired it gives to the possessor a good deal of pleasure which is denied to less fortunate travelers."

Charles Sprague Sargent (1841-1927)

Print references I frequently consult

Benvie, Sam. Encyclopedia of North American Trees. Buffalo, NY: Firefly, 2000.

Brockman, C. Frank. Trees of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. Ed. Herbert S. Zim. New York: Golden, 1986.

Cliburn, Jerry, and Ginny Clomps. A Key to Missouri Trees in Winter: An Identification Guide. Conservation Commission of the State of Missouri, 1980.

Collingwood, G. H., Warren David Brush, and Devereux Butcher. Knowing Your Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1978.

Dirr, Michael. Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs: an Illustrated Encyclopedia. Portland, Or.: Timber, 1997.

Elias, Thomas S. The Complete Trees of North America; Field Guide and Natural History. New York: Book Division, Times Mirror Magazines, 1980.

Grimm, William Carey. The Book of Trees;. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1962.

Hightshoe, Gary L. Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban and Rural America: a Planting Design Manual for Environmental Designers. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1988.

Little, Elbert L. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees. New York: Chanticleer, 1996.

Martin, Alexander C., Herbert S. Zim, and Arnold L. Nelson. American Wildlife and Plants. New York: McGraw Hill, 1951.

Mitchell, Alan F., and David More. The Trees of North America. New York, NY: Facts On File Publications, 1987.

Randall, Charles E. Enjoying Our Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1969.

Settergren, Carl D., and R. E. McDermott. Trees of Missouri. Columbia: University Extension, 1995.

Sternberg, Guy, and James W. Wilson. Native Trees for North American Landscapes: from the Atlantic to the Rockies. Portland: Timber, 2004.

Wharton, Mary E., and Roger W. Barbour. Trees and Shrubs of Kentucky. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1973.

Wyman, Donald. Trees for American Gardens. New York: Macmillan, 1965.

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