Releasing pigs into the forest was a terrible idea.
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"