A rapidly growing problem in America is the geometrically increasing population of wild boars, themselves an invasive species of wildlife, and also wild boar hybrids resulting from mating with formerly domestic feral pigs.
Colloquially called hogs, boars or razorbacks, these tusked nuisances are now running wild across much of the U.S. and North America. No matter what specific species or generation they are, these beasts are a hugely expensive, and increasingly dangerous, menace.
If all you have ever experienced of pigs and boars is a pink, comparatively friendly farm-raised pig, you’d be forgiven for thinking these critters were harmless.
You’ll come away with a new point of view quick if you ever have a close encounter with one of these porcine marauders: feral pigs multiply explosively, and their destructive rooting through plants and crops can disrupt ecosystems and the rest of the natural food chain, to say nothing of wipe out your subsistence farming endeavor.
Worse yet, these animals retain their omnivorous appetites once they “go wild” and will eat smaller prey animals like young deer, birds, reptiles and all kinds of eggs.
Boars and feral pigs are also known and notorious vectors of nasty germs that can infect humans and other animals. The best way to deal with a pig infestation in your area is to wipe them out.
If you are going hunting to protect what’s yours, you’ll stand a better than average chance of being attacked by a tusker. It’s best to learn now how to deal with them so you aren’t gored up one side and down the other.
Table of Contents
The Nature of the Beast
The wild boar is a native species hailing from Eurasia and North Africa. From there it spread, or was introduced, to much of the rest of the world, including North America.
Once here, arriving first around the 19th century, they promptly mated with existing populations of escaped domestic pigs producing hybrids that plague us to this very day.
These boars are chunky and strong, covered with long, coarse, bristly hair lined by an undercoat of fur for warmth in the winter. This hair is longer near the spine, and grows shorter on the flanks, limbs and head.
The longer hairs on the spine bristle when adults are fearful or angry, lending them their colloquial name of razorback. Color varies from light brown to dark charcoal, with younger creatures being lighter in color than adults.
Wild boars show the characteristics, bulky neck and short, spindly legs of most pigs. The head is very large and wide, making these animals formidable diggers, and ends in a prominent snout above a mouth lined with teeth suited for eating flesh or vegetable matter.
Of greatest concern are their powerful jaws and the four sharp canines, or tusks, two on either side and very prominent on males, that the boar can use offensively to good effect on the charge and then with follow on goring.
These tusks are very durable, and the external portion can reach over 4 inches in length, more than capable of inflicting severe wounds.
Adult boars can weigh anywhere from 100lbs to more than 350lbs, size and stature being largely dependent on food intake. Males are larger, all things equal. “Monster” boars weighing upwards of 500lbs are possible, but are thankfully rare.
Their mass alone is a formidable weapon when charging, as you are likely to be knocked off your feet from the impact, bringing your head, neck and abdomen within reach of their sharp tusks.
Males will also grow a layer of subdermal armor in the form of thick tissue during breeding season that serves to protect their vitals from the tusks of competing males.
This can make a male boar on the rampage even harder to take down. While not particularly nimble, boars are heavily muscled and can turn and jump with some swiftness. Boars can sprint for short distances at 25mph, and leap nearly five feet.
Boars have strongly developed senses of smell and sharp hearing, both of which will often send them skittering away when they detect potential threats, but their eyesight is poor.
Boars are nearsighted, and lack color vision. When hunting boars, if you are more than 50 feet away or so and stand still you will be effectively invisible to them.
Of greatest concern to our ecology and growing concern to people and domestic animals is the positively explosive rate of reproduction of these animals: there are over six million wild boars and boar hybrids loose in the U.S. all across territory from the mountains of California to the panhandle of Florida, and from the swamps of Louisiana to as far into New England as New York.
Even Hawaii has a major problem with wild boars and hybrids. All total, more than 40 states have wild populations of these animals.
A female boar can produce a litter of piglets (boarlets?) numbering from four to twelve, in as little as 14 weeks, and will bear multiple litters over the course of her life.
Combine this massive reproductive capability with too few natural predators and you have the makings of a wave of swine destroying ecosystems from coast to coast.
An adult boar weighing just 100lbs requires anywhere from 4,000-4,500 calories a day, and when you multiply that figure by the number of adults in country you will start to get some figment of an idea of just how much these critters eat, and how much they have to destroy to get it. Boars cause over $2 billion dollars in damage, predominately lost agriculture, per year in the U.S.
The Threat from Boars
Boars range far and wide in their search for food, carving great and destructive furrows in natural and human cultivated tracts to get it. Boars eat roots, tubers, bulbs, nuts and berries of all kinds. They will eat bugs, reptiles, amphibians, eggs and small mammals
They even eat such seeming incomestibles as tree bark and garbage! The results of their forays are badly mauled crops or small farm animals, and the disruption of food chains for native animals in the locale where boars have set up residence.
Worse yet, boars are known to carry and prolifically spread all kinds of parasitic, bacterial and viral diseases to humans and other animals. Even incidental contact with an infected boar can see you contract illness
Trichinella spiralis, Balantidium coli, Metastrongylus, Toxoplasma gondi, foot and mouth disease, tuberculosis, Hepatitis E., influenza, and all manner of lice and ticks are just a few of the joys that boars carry. More rarely, they may carry truly severe bugs whose names you definitely don’t want to hear.
It goes without saying, but any water source frequented by boars and feral pigs will be savagely contaminated by their feces, since boars regularly bathe and dip in water stay cool and evade pests.
Boars can be aggressive toward humans and domestic animals, typically becoming enraged over territorial trespass, interruption during mating season and surprising a mother with piglets.
A surprising number of hikers and other folks out of doors report completely unprovoked attacks in increasing number since the early 2000s. Florida, Texas and South Carolina lead the nation in violent run-ins with these animals.
Even suburbia is not safe from the porky punks: boars and their hybrid offspring are fairly intelligent, and quickly lose their fretfulness around humans if they figure out human habitation equals food in any form.
You stand a greater chance of encountering and being attacked by boars if you are in areas that they prefer to inhabit: dense forested areas with heavy brush and undergrowth and plentiful water with little snowfall are their favorites by a mile.
This type of terrain also means sightlines will be limited and encounters close, and boar are commonly said to “erupt” from bushes and thickets seemingly out of nowhere.
Also, seemingly placid or grazing boars have been caught on film turning hostile in a heartbeat, so you should keep your distance as you would with any wild animal you don’t want to tangle with.
You can see several examples of these violent encounters between boar and man on this YouTube clip. Note that this video is graphic:
The Scope of the Feral Hog Problem
It’s not something that you want to think about, but the fact of the matter is wild boars are becoming more and more aggressive towards humans, and not just in the U.S.
This is quickly becoming a global issue, particularly across North America and much of Europe, and the number of encounters with negative outcomes has been climbing precipitously since 2010.
With ever increasing contact between man and hog, the possibility of an attack increases as well.
Below we will examine the wild hog situation report around the world as well as vital data taken from from John J. Mayer’s 2013 white paper “Wild Pig Attacks on Humans.” Keep your eyes peeled!
The U.S. Feral Hog Situation Report
Feral pigs used to live in a very restricted territory of the United States. Pigs prefer mild climates and rolling terrain. Although wild pigs are prevalent in Texas and coastal California, many American hunters find them strange and exotic.
Hunter unfamiliar with wild pigs may view problems linked with them as distant and unimportant but they will become acquainted with them soon enough.
It is now evident that invasive wild pigs, also known as wild boars, feral hogs or feral pigs, have caused a slew of difficulties in the United States.
Wild pigs destroy and degrade habitat important to native plants and animals. Every year, they cost us millions of dollars through agricultural damage, disease prevention, competition with indigenous species, and population management.
According to a report published in Scientific American magazine, wild pigs are responsible for $1.5 billion of agricultural damage each year. Every year in Texas, 2.6 million free-roaming feral hogs cause $500 million worth of property damage.
In their current range, there are few big predators that keep the herds in check, and pigs breed rapidly. Live trapping, helicopter hunting, and recreational on-foot hunting are primary management methods.
Recreational hunting has become increasingly popular among hunters who live in pig territory. And rightfully so, as every person who is capable should seize any opportunity to kill wild boars.
They may be found in large numbers, are delicious eating, and can be hunted successfully by employing tracking dogs, ambushes, and other techniques in certain parts of Texas, California, and other states.
Bag limitations are quite libertine or non-existent with seasons lasting for a long time. However, while hunting hogs is very popular infestations and re-infestation still occur very quickly, with no signs of slowing.
There were no wild pigs to be found in Michigan a generation ago. By 2011, wild pigs that were likely descendants of game farm escapees and small-scale farmers’ escaped domestics were identified in 72 of 83 Michigan counties.
To address this increasing concern, Sus scrofa, Eurasian Wild Boars, and their hybrids have been designated as an invasive species in Michigan. In Michigan, capturing and keeping these wild hogs is now prohibited.
There’s a lot of anxiety about invasive feral swine from Oklahoma and Texas coming in to Colorado. It is now illegal to acquire or import wild pigs in Colorado, and they may be shot without a license throughout the year.
In Missouri, the method for dealing with wild hogs has been different because game managers believe that civilian hunting distresses and scatters herds of feral hogs that in turn makes it far harder for government-employed trappers to eliminate feral pigs.
Accordingly, the hunting or civil eradication of wild boars is prohibited on state land. In many other states, including Nebraska, Kansas, Nevada, and Utah, hunting wild boars is expressly forbidden.
Managers believe that the greatest approach to halt the spread of these invasive and destructive pigs is to choke off their illegal release and aggressively prevent them from gaining a foothold in new regions where they do appear.
Despite all state efforts to contain growing swine populations, ballooning pig numbers outpace confinement methods. Pigs have now invaded areas that were previously undesirable to them.
According to the researchers behind this research, warming temperatures throughout the United States are likely a contributing cause of increasing wild pigs.
The rate at which pigs are moving north has nearly doubled, suggesting that the previous barrier of colder climes may be dissolving.
According to the study’s research technique, every county in every state in the lower 48 could have resident wild pigs within a few decades. Feral pigs may spread north as well as climb higher elevations as temperatures continue to rise across the board.
In response to the rampant devastation carried out by feral hogs, the federal government has taken notice.
In 2014, a USDA representative said that the agency implemented “in response to the growing damage and threats created by increasing wild pig populations in the United States.”
The National Feral Swine Damage Management Program was established that same year as a result of the USDA’s efforts.
The program’s $20 million budget was intended to eradicate species, safeguard agriculture and natural resources, as well as animal and human health.
It was led by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, or APHIS, which collaborated with other federal agencies, states, indigenous groups, local organizations, and universities to devise unique strategies.
A new pilot program is attempting to eliminate wild pig species. It’s a collaboration between the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and APHIS called the Feral Swine Eradication and Control Pilot Program (FSCP).
The initiative was established as a result of the 2018 Farm Bill “to combat the devastation feral swine cause to agriculture, natural ecosystems, and human and animal health.”
European Invasion: Wild Pigs Ransack Cities, Attacks Increase
Wild pigs are a startling highway menace in Europe; thousands of vehicle accidents are caused by wild boar each year. A herd of wild boar crossed a motorway south of Milan in January, resulting in a three-car pileup that killed one person and injured several others.
The boar wreak havoc on properties, devouring ground-nesting animals – including endangered turtles’ eggs – as well as various crops, including delicate vine roots and shoots. Italian farmers calculate that the boar cause €100 million in crop losses every year.
But you’re not safe just because you’ve stopped driving. Barcelona, a city of more than 1.5 million people that receives tens of millions of visitors each year, has become a warfront between humans and pigs.
Since it is located very near pristine wilderness that is host to countless wild hogs you can see where this is heading.
On many a scorching Catalan night, wild boar from Parc de Collserola, alone or in groups, descend on the city and mix with the human population out after hours to carouse.
Barcelonan and wild boars have a long history of conflict. 2016 saw police receive nearly 1,200 phone calls about wild and aggressive boars on the loose and causing chaos, rooting up turf, breaking into trash bins, attacking pets, plundering feeders, blocking traffic, and colliding with automobiles.
For the last decade, Barcelona has been looking for a solution to keep the boar from colonizing the pleasant areas of town, particularly those that abut Collserola and are populated by the wealthy and influential of society. In 2013, a police officer shot at a boar with his service revolver and instead missed, wounding and narrowly avoiding killing his partner.
Meanwhile, the European Wild Boar Population is growing rapidly, according to a new report from the Peace & Sport Foundation. “Human-wild boar conflicts are projected to increase in number,” says the report. Cities will be forced to deal with a pest that’s bigger than a rat and has more sophisticated behavior than a pigeon or stray cat, the statistics suggest.
In Berlin, a team of cityjäger, or trained street hunters, are employed to eliminate nuisance wild boars within the city limits.
They’ve killed hundreds of them, but there are still around 3,000 in Berlin’s green outlying enclaves and parks and prowling the streets at night, according to the German hunting lobby.
In the course of history, Rome has been conquered by Gauls, Visigoths, and Vandals. The Eternal City is now confronted with a rampaging army of an entirely different sort: wild boars seeking for food in the rubbish.
In exasperation, Romans are uploading wild boar videos to social media as the scavengers march past their shops, strollers, or playgrounds.
In Rome, entire families of wild boars have become a common sight, as groups of 10-30 youngsters and adults emerge from the vast parks surrounding the city to stroll down traffic-clogged streets in search of food in the city’s notoriously overflowing waste containers.
Feral pigs are even turning into political reaction mass. The wild boar invasion has been utilized as a political weapon to criticize mayors and other officials who by action or omission of action exacerbate the “pig problem.”
However, experts say the problem is more complicated and linked at least in part to an increasing boar population. Removal and eradication techniques are under research.
According to the Italian association of farmers, Coldiretti, there are roughly 2 million wild boars in Italy. In Rome’s neighboring region of Lazio, there are 5,000-6,000 wild boars in city parks, with a few hundred of them leaving the trees and greenery for urban asphalt and trash cans on a regular basis.
No place, it seems, is safe from the porcine menace.
The Facts About Wild Hog Attacks on Humans
Attacks on people by wild pigs (Sus scrofa) have been recorded for a long time. However, there are no studies detailing these instances.
Dr. John J. Mayer gathered information on 412 wild pig attacks on humans from across the world in an attempt to better understand this occurrence. Similar to research of big predator assaults on people, data was sourced from a variety of sources.
The different assaults were organized into seven ecozones based on their locations around the globe. Most incidents took place within the species’ natural habitat, with the majority occurring in rural areas.
The following information was gleaned from his 2013 paper “Wild Pig Attacks on Humans.”
The majority of these incidents happened during the winter and during days when it is bright. The majority of the events took place under non- hunting circumstances and appeared to be random.
Wounded animals were mostly to blame for these assaults in hunting situations. In most cases, the creatures involved were single, male, and enormous in size.
Depending on the situation, the wild pigs’ fate varied, but most escaped unharmed. The majority of human attackers were adult males on foot and alone. The most common result for these people was some sort of touch/mauling.
Severity of injuries ranged from minor to deadly in these cases. Most mauled victims suffered only one-sided wounds, with the legs/feet being the most frequent body part harmed.
Lacerations and punctures were the primary type of injury in most situations. Blood loss was typically the cause of death in these instances. In certain circumstances, serious infections or toxemia developed as a consequence of the injuries.
It should come as no surprise that most attacks (76%) took place without the presence of a predator.
No attacks under hunting conditions occurred in either suburban or urban habitats, as might be expected. The animal being threatened was the most common identifiable cause of these assaults overall (41%).
Causes in non-hunting situations were mostly unprovoked in the rest of the circumstances subset (49%), whereas wounded animals were responsible for the majority of causes within the hunting subsets (48%).
Timing and Terrain
Most animal assaults (88%) took place at night, owing to the animals being threatened or having a brief encounter with the victim. The majority were single attacks (94%). Multiple assaults occurred more frequently in developed areas (21%) than in rural areas (3%), according to data from the Biodiversity Crime Reporting Facility.
The most common attack proximity was a close rush in the open (67 percent), which shows that the human victim saw the creature before the assault.
A distant rush in the open was the least frequent attack proximity (12%) ; most of these (52 percent) led to victims being charged, chased, or treed.
According to the statistics, 40% of the people who were attacked by animals fought back alone, 30% were aided by companions, and 21% escaped or fled on their own.
In all, 36% of the victims (i.e., companions, passersby, or both) helped them in their defense. The remaining defenses each accounted for less than 5 percent of the total number.
Attacking Pig Characteristics
The individuals who were attacked by these wild pigs were mostly solitary (82%); nevertheless, sounders of two to twenty animals have been observed attacking humans.
According to the 92 wild pigs that were named by victims or witnesses, the majority (87%) were described as being physically big animals.
The mean total body mass was 129 kg, with a range of 33 to 499 kg, out of the 65 creatures for which an estimated or actual total body mass was calculated. In general, most wild pigs emerged unharmed following the assault (60%), as well as in non-hunting circumstances (73%).
The most common result among the 665 human victims was to be physically touched/mauled (69%), followed on by those who were charged/aggressively threatened (17%), treed (9%) and chased (5%).
Overall, the majority of the people had at least some injuries (69%). The majority of victims suffered injuries to a single part of their body (61%), usually the lower half from the waist down.
The legs/feet were the most common body part injured (39%), followed by abdomen (12%), equally thorax, arms and hands (each 11%), head/neck (8%), buttocks (5%) and groin (4%). Leg wounds were frequently found on the posterior thigh.
Minor body regions (i.e., upper/waist up and lower/waist down) showed the majority of variation, with mostly upper body for minors (80%) and adolescents/teens (56%), and mostly lower body for adults (58%) and seniors (56%).
There have only been four fatalities attributed to wild pig attacks in the United States, and elsewhere in the world approximately 3.8 people are victims of fatal attacks annually.
Defending Against a Wild Boar Attack
The best defense against a potential boar attack is to gain higher ground. Boars can jump, but are terrible at and averse to climbing, so mantling on top of a car, boulder or similar obstruction if you have time will help you stay safe.
Climbing a tree is a decent option if you have time, but the speed and typical closeness of a surprise charge will make this dicey or impossible.
Boars are surprisingly speedy and accelerate quickly, but they are not particularly nimble; their cornering ability is limited, and further hampered by their lack of head mobility. A well-timed sidestep can see you evade a goring form a charging pig.
No matter what happens on the attack, keep your footing! Most boar attacks result in injuries ranging from significant to serious to the lower body. This is because the average boar is of shorter stature.
Should you fall, the boar can easily reach and slice your head, neck and torso with potentially life-threatening results. If you are attacked and entangled with a boar, fight back using all available means, while avoiding the business end.
Boars are strong but their short limbs and lack of flexibility makes them susceptible to toppling and trapping if you are able.
A boar on its back is more easily controlled prior to a coup de grace, and the aforementioned lack of head and neck mobility means you can maneuver out of their danger zone.
Putting Porky Down
Weapons are always a good idea for fending off boar, and though they have been ascribed a mythical toughness they are not particularly difficult animal to bring down with blade, bow or gun.
A wound to the heart and lungs will quickly subdue them, though boars are notorious for dying “last gasp” bursts of strength, so caution should be used whenever you think you have a porker down for the count.
If you rely on a firearm for hunting or self-defense, most intermediate caliber rifle cartridges will work fine, as will larger sizes of buckshot or slugs from a shotgun.
For rifles, mid-range .22 caliber and any .30 caliber round will be more than adequate, and plenty of skillful hunters have claimed hogsheads with rounds as small as the .22 Hornet and .22 WMR.
Many hunters in the U.S. use 5.56mm, .308 Winchester, .30-30 Winchester and 7.62x39mm with good results, though some load for moose and use larger calibers for more decisive effects.
In handguns, most rounds will work on boar, but one should use caution to ensure good shot placement with a proper bullet for good effect.
Many common self-defense rounds may not penetrate deeply enough on a large hog. .357 and .44 Magnum loads are popular in revolvers, and 10mm Auto is a mainstay and increasingly ideal load for pig in a semi-auto.
But if you were to be attacked by a boar from nowhere armed with your 9mm or .38 Special I would not feel undergunned unless facing a very large specimen. Not my first choice, but adequate in a pinch.
Your aiming point on a hog broadside to you is immediately above and so slightly behind the front leg knee where it touches the chest, right where the bottom of the trunk begins.
This is the location of the heart. Immediately above the heart and occupying much of the second third of the boar’s torso are the lungs. Aiming immediately above the eye will render a brain shot and a most certainly dead boar.
From the front things are a little trickier. Aim at the base of the brow just above the line between the eyes for a brain shot, or midway between the base of the ear and the base of the shoulder for a chance at breaking the spine, which will drop the boar immediately.
While not as tough as often thought, boars, especially male boars in mating season, are known to have fat and other tissue seal entry and exit wounds, slowing blood loss.
It is best to count only on high-effect hits making headway on bringing a hog down, so take the time to study anatomical diagrams and targets of boars to ensure you are doing damage where it will be most effective.
Aftermath of a Boar Attack
If you are injured by a boar, you must assume the wound will become infected. Seek medical attention if at all possible and as a quickly as you can.
Aside from standard gribblies you can contract from any puncture wound, especially one inflicted by a an animal’s mouth, you run the risk of all the other more exotic bugs listed earlier in this article.
This caution should extend to preparing and cleaning a wild boar for its meat: wear impermeable gloves if available, and shielding your eyes against a possible splash of blood is a good idea.
Discard any animal whose flesh appears odd, or if you notice strange lesions, discoloration or boils. You must be sure to thoroughly, and I mean thoroughly cook any meat taken from wild boars and their feral pig cousins to kill any lurking parasites.
Despite their troublesome ways and harm they cause man, beast and the environment, boars of all kinds can make for plentiful and nutritious meat if you are skilled at hunting them.
Their immense populations means preppers in certain areas will have no shortage of food in long term emergencies if they have the skill to bring it home.
Stay Away from Them!
Wild boars are dangerous, aggressive, invasive and destructive. Knowing how to deal with boar attack is important, and growing more important all the time as they spread and their populations increase.
Since even the most prolific and intensive eradication efforts to date have done little to curb boar populations, it may only be a matter of time before you run into one of these rooting, squealing terrors.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.