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European Wild Hogs

The European wild hog (Sus scrofa) is an exotic animal that has caused problems in the park, and the extent of damage it has done in the past and continues to do annually is of major concern.

These animals were first brought to the southern mountains from Europe in 1912 by an American who was establishing a hunting preserve at Hoppers Bald in western North Carolina, just a few miles southwest of the park boundary in what is now the Nantahala National Forest. The hogs later escaped the penned areas and began roaming freely through the hills and interbreeding with the free-roaming domestic hogs owned by the mountain people. It is believed that a few of these animals reached the park not many years after this initial escape, but it is believed the main invasion was in 1940.

The present-day wild hogs still exhibit the main characteristics of the European strain, including black hair, a distinct shoulder hump, and formidable-appearing tusks, but sometimes a white blaze on their face indicates that hybridization has occurred in the past.

Wild hogs do various kinds of damage. They root and furrow the forest floor and damage and destroy many plant species, some of which are rare or take several years to bloom. Like domestic hogs, wild hogs will eat almost anything: small mammals, salamanders, snakes, bird eggs, snails, mushrooms, and carrion. Wild hogs have no sweat glands, so they wallow in wet spots, springs, and small creeks, contaminating the water with coliform.

Park wildlife managers pursue a vigorous program of control measures, and since 1977, over 6,500 hogs have been removed by shooting or trapping. Funding from the National Resource Preservation Program gave the program a big boost, and since its initiation in 1986, over 3,800 hogs have been removed. A rooting survey is performed to learn the distribution of the hogs, and currently it is estimated that only a few hundred remain. Complete elimination of the hogs may not be possible, but it is believed that a very low population level can be maintained.

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