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Wild Hogs of the Smoky Mountains

All Smoky Mountain Vacations
214 Sharon Dr.
Seymour, TN  37865

info@allsmokymountainvacations.com

The European wild hog (Sus scrofa) began to inhabit the park in the 1940's after a shipment of wild boar from Poland or Germany to Hooper's Bald in North Carolina, escaped from a private reserve, 15 miles southwest of the Smoky Mountains boundary, in what is now referred to as the Nantahala National Forest. Interbreeding between the wild boar and domestic pig stock during the boar's movement toward the park resulted in hybrid wild hogs, which today threaten the park's ecosystems and the American black bear. 

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Coat color varies from gray to black, and most piglets have longitudinal stripes until they are about four months old. 

Although the maximum weight for a wild hog is 300 pounds, most male hogs in the Smokies weigh about 125 pounds with females weighing slightly less during their average life span of 10 years. At birth, the piglets weigh roughly two pounds.

Hogs are three to five feet in length and stand two to three feet at the shoulder. Hogs have poor eyesight, but a keen sense of smell and hearing. 

Wild Hogs of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Found mostly in the western two-thirds of the park, the hogs experience migratory movements in search of food. Because hogs lack sweat glands, they move into the cooler climate of the higher elevations during the spring and summer to help regulate their body temperature, where the under growth of beech and northern hardwood forests provide an abundance of bulbs, tubers, and wildflowers. At the end of summer, the hogs migrate down into the oak forests to feed on acorns and other mast. Male hogs are mostly solitary, except during the breeding season, while females and piglets gather in groups of two to three animals.

Wild hogs are usually nocturnal, but they will have some daytime activity. Like their domestic relatives, wild hogs will east almost anything. Flowering plants, mushrooms, snails, snakes, small mammals, bird eggs, salamanders, and carrion. But the mast crop is the mainstay of the wild hog diet.

The hog behavior of rooting while searching for food causes the most damage to the park. Many plant species, including ones that are rare or that take several years to flower, are eaten, trampled, or uprooted by the tiller action of a foraging hog. Native animals are also victim to the wild hog through direct consumption, destruction of habitat, and competition. For example, red-cheeked salamanders, which are endemic to the park, are commonly found in hog stomachs.

Both wallowing and rooting contaminate streams, causing potential problems for the native brook trout. Hog occupied drainages have been found to have a higher concentration of bacteria than unoccupied drainages. These bacteria contaminate water sources, which is a health consideration in heavily used recreational areas such as the park.

Both sexes have 44 teeth including a well developed set of canines. The upper tusks act as "whetstones" to keep sharp edges on the lower ones. 

MANAGEMENT

The wild hog is an exotic (non-native) species to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The National Park Service policy is that manipulation of populations of exotic plant and animal species, up to and including total eradication, will be undertaken whenever such species threaten the protection or interpretation of resources being preserved by the park. 

The park has found that a combination of trapping and direct reduction methods has proven to be the most successful in reducing the numbers of these non-native mammals. Since the invasion of the wild hog in the late 1940's, nearly 7,500 animals have been removed by trapping and/or shooting. Many of the hogs removed from the park are trapped and transported to wildlife management areas to be released for hunting purposes. Of the total number of animals removed, nearly 6,500 hogs have been removed since 1977. Funding by the National Resources Preservation Program (NRPP) has been the most important component in allocating resources for the establishment of an effective removal program. Since 1986, the first year of NRPP funding, over 3,800 hogs have been removed from the park. Prior to 1986, an estimated 2,000 hogs inhabited the park. Current population estimates are only a few hundred animals.

There is continual monitoring of wild hogs in the park, including periodic serological surveys to determine any infectious diseases of hogs in the park. Vegetation monitoring in fenced off areas called "hog exclosures" gives researchers a chance to study what happens to forest succession and species populations after hogs have been excluded from that particular ecosystem. Past research has included a rooting index which indicates the distribution of hogs in the park, and a bait enhancement study to determine if the hogs had a bait preference in an effort to facilitate trapping methods. Despite 30 years of management, more than 500 hogs remain in the Park. Future efforts may maintain populations at minimal levels, but elimination is unlikely.

All Smoky Mountain Vacations
214 Sharon Dr.
Seymour, TN 37865

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