From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Feral Pigs in American Cities

Free-roaming pigs lived on garbage



In June, 2007, I wrote in my tree blog that part of today's feral pig problem in the USA can be traced back to early farmers. Some pigs escaped into the wild from pens and pastures, but many were deliberately set free in unfenced forests to forage for nuts, wild fruit, etc. (See "Releasing pigs into the forest was a terrible idea".)

I wrote the post about feral pigs in forests after reading an article about raising pigs on mast in an 1864 magazine. Recently, I came across some information about feral pigs living in US cities during the same era (mid-1800s).

European travelers commented on the animals roaming the streets of American cities, eating from the gutter where unwanted food had landed, thrown from doors and windows. Scavenger pigs, goats, and stray dogs had the run of the cities before the Civil War, along with the many cows and pigs whose owners let them loose to graze on the streets... New York dispatched carts to round up pigs in 1830, but to little effect. "Take care of the pigs," Charles Dickens advised Manhattan pedestrians in American Notes, published in 1842; that year the New York Daily Tribune estimated ten thousand hogs on the streets. The roaming pigs consumed so much garbage and furnished so much food for the poor that efforts to ban them ran into political opposition.

Quoted from Chapter One, of Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash by Susan Strasser, (C) 1999 Susan Strasser. ISBN: 0-8050-4830-8. (Login required.)


It is interesting to browse through the results of a modern-day Google search for "feral pigs in US cities". Wild pigs are well-known in some urban areas. I'm amazed that feral pigs have even been caught in Kansas City.

Today's wild pigs won't find as much garbage in our cities as they did 150 years ago, so it's unlikely that they will become as numerous in urban areas as they once were. However, in my opinion, any number of feral pigs is too many.

Wild pigs are wily, aggressive animals that eradicate native species, destroy natural and cultivated areas with their rooting, menace pedestrians and pets, create traffic problems, carry tuberculosis, and spread livestock diseases such as pseudorabies and swine brucellosis. They reproduce at tremendous rates.

The population of feral pigs is increasing steadily in the southern U.S. (1988 map.) I have no desire to ever meet one face to face. I think there should be an open hunting season on them across the U.S., because they are an invasive species.

It can't be denied that pigs are fierce competitors in the natural order. I wonder if feral pigs will be survivors, along with the cockroaches, if the "big one" ever happens and life on earth suffers a major kill-back.

1 comment:

John Ruberry said...

Hawaii and polynesia were transformed by humans--and pig.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

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