There are millions of wild pigs in the world with the largest numbers in the United States and Australia but significant numbers in South America, Europe, and China. In the US, there are as many as 9 million feral swine living in 38 states. A conservative estimate indicates that they cause about $1.5 billion in property and agricultural damage each year in this country.
Researchers in Australia have studied the climate damage wild pigs are causing across five continents. According to the study, by uprooting carbon trapped in soil, wild pigs are releasing over 5 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, which is the equivalent of 1.1 million cars.
When soils are disturbed from humans plowing a field, or from wild animals uprooting, carbon is released into the atmosphere. According to the researchers, wild pigs are just like tractors plowing through fields, turning over soil to find food.
The study used predictive population models coupled with advanced mapping techniques to pinpoint the damage wild pigs are causing. According to the models, pigs are currently uprooting an area between 14,000 and 47,000 square miles, which is an enormous amount of land. The effects are not just on the health of the soil and on carbon emissions. This much damage also threatens biodiversity and food security.
Wild pigs are basically a human-caused problem, being either feral descendants of domestic swine, or hybrids of domestic swine and wild boars. Wild pigs are prolific and their numbers have been expanding rapidly Controlling their populations will require cooperation and collaboration across multiple jurisdictions.
Photo, posted July 1, 2017, courtesy of Shiva Shenoy via Flickr.