Invasive Feral Hogs Continue to Threaten the Roan

We are entering the fifth year of coordinated efforts to manage invasive feral hogs in the Highlands of Roan. These invasive feral hogs damage the fragile, globally important ecosystems of the Roan as they “root,” eating rare species and tearing up the terrain.  They also spread multiple diseases and pose a safety threat to outdoor recreation enthusiasts.

In November, the Feral Hog Working Group, part of our ongoing collaborative Roan Stewardship efforts, met at the SAHC office to discuss updates and plan future work.

“Since feral hogs can have devastating impacts on plants and wildlife, as well as human and livestock health, the situation requires coordinating a broad group of partners,” explains Marquette Crockett, SAHC’s Roan Stewardship Director. “This includes federal and state agencies in both NC and TN.”

Feral Hog Working Group partners represented at the November meeting included: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Animal & Plant Health Inspection Services NC (USDA APHIS TN), U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Animal & Plant Health Inspection Services TN (USDA APHIS TN), NC Wildlife Resources Commission, NC state parks, TN Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA), TN Dept. of Energy and Conservation, The Nature Conservancy, Cherokee National Forest, Pisgah National Forest, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and private landowners in the Highlands of Roan.

Update on Progress

Although trapping efforts have removed 40-50 feral hogs from the Roan each year, it’s still not enough to effectively control the population — which would require more time and resources than currently allocated.

“The situation remains grim,” says Marquette. “Although we have noticed reduced impact in some of the areas where there has been a lot of trapping, funding for the federal trapping program has been reduced. We need more resources in order to effectively control the population of feral hogs.”

The working group plans to continue to actively trap and remove feral hogs. People are asked to report feral hog occurrences to 1-866-4-USDA-WS.

“One change we’ve seen in the past year is that we are beginning to see more feral hogs on the TN side of the Roan,” adds Crockett. “They appear to be moving across the mountain. Six were trapped in TN’s Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area.”

Last fall, SAHC’s Seasonal Ecologist, Travis Bordley, photographed feral hogs standing on the Appalachian Trail near 19-E in Carter County, TN, and immediately reported the sighting to TWRA and USDA APHIS in TN.

Plan for 2019

Feral hogs on Appalachian Trail

NOT your favorite trail partners — These scary looking boar are standing on the Appalachian Trail, where it crosses 19-E on the TN side of the Highlands of Roan. SAHC continues to convene partnership to address feral hog problems in the Roan. (photo by Travis Bordley)

Partners in the Feral Hog Working Group undertake a collaborative effort to address the threat – pooling data, reports and wildlife camera imagery to analyze the population growth, movement, and impact. This year, the partners plan to focus on data collection in order to inform plans for managing these invasive hogs.

“The working group plans to use wildlife cameras and GPS tracking collars across the Roan this year, with a focus on gaining a greater understanding about how feral hogs are using and moving across the landscape,” explains Crockett. “We plan to have more than 100 cameras going out in 2019.  We are trying to get a clearer picture of how they are using the landscape, so we can improve strategic plans for removing them.”

During the partial government shut down, plans for feral hog control temporarily stalled, as many of our federal agency partners were on furlough. Unfortunately, federal agencies were prohibited from trapping the feral hogs during the partial shutdown, and winter is the best time for trapping to control feral hog populations. We look forward to seeing this back on track.

Safety Tips:

Invasive hogs can be aggressive, especially when defending their young. They may weigh up to 300 lbs, have sharp tusks, and can charge very quickly.

  • Be alert! Know the signs and tracks of hogs and avoid heavily used areas, especially at dusk or dawn when hogs are most active. Feral hogs have been spotted ON the Appalachian Trail in the Roan, so please use heightened awareness when hiking in this area.
  • Avoid water sources that have been used by invasive hogs – humans can contract multiple diseases from water sources contaminated by hogs and their feces.
  • Hogs will generally try to avoid contact with humans, but may become aggressive if surprised, especially if piglets are present.
  • If you encounter a hog on the trail, re-route your hike to avoid them. If a re-route is not possible, keep a safe distance and wait for the hogs to leave before continuing.
  • If faced with an aggressive hog, the best option for protecting yourself is to climb the nearest tree.
  • If directly charged by a hog, you should quickly sidestep out of the direction of the charge and climb the nearest tree or boulder.
  • If using a firearm to protect yourself from a feral hog, ensure that it has enough knock-down power to be effective (otherwise it may be best to avoid the encounter and move to safety instead).