From snakes to baby trees and from rabbits to turtles, the things Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries recently dug out of the bellies of dead feral hogs is extensive and somewhat surprising.
Wildlife and Fisheries is studying the stomach contents of wild pigs to better understand the destruction these pests cause to croplands and wetlands, according to an article on nola.com.
Although the study isn't complete, results are “already hinting that the hairy, tusked hogs may pose an even bigger and broader threat to wildlife than scientists knew,” the article said.
Jim LaCour, a state wildlife veterinarian and feral hog expert, told nola.com that wild hogs will eat anything that moves — or doesn’t move. If it has calories, wild hogs will eat it, he says.
Feral hogs are in direct competition with valued species in Louisiana, eating endangered species of salamanders, shorebirds and turtles. They are also consuming major quantities of acorns, a food that native animals, including deer, turkeys and wood ducks, depend on during winter months.
Wildlife and Fisheries has compiled about 190 stomachs from hogs killed by hunters and land managers. Scientists have done preliminary inventories, taking note of anything that’s obvious. The next step is to complete DNA tests of the stomach contents, but funding was recently shifted to higher-priority research, the article said. In the meantime, the stomachs will sit in a freezer until funding is available again.
A few surprises along the way
Scientists discovered that the feral pigs ate a massive volume of worms, which came as a bit of a shock. Although they believe the pigs eat gator eggs, initial belly checks did not reveal any soft eggs, but scientists believe traces of them are there. DNA tests are still needed to confirm.
About 51% of Louisiana alligator farmers reported hog raids of gator nests, according to a 2012 study that involved Wildlife and Fisheries scientists, the article said. Hogs typically eat the entire nest of 25 to 50 eggs. The eggs are valued at $20 to $30 per egg by the farmers, LaCour told nola.com.
In Louisiana alone, the feral hog population is around 700,000. Louisiana hunters and land managers kill more than 150,000 feral hogs each year, but experts say it’s not enough to limit the species' growth. Scientists estimate that 70% of the animals — about 490,000 — would need to be shot, poisoned or trapped each year just to maintain a static population, the article said.
More from Farm Journal's PORK: