Hordes of hogs running wild across Wyoming aren’t likely anytime soon, some hunters and wildlife agents said, but feral pigs reaching the Cowboy State could be inevitable.
There have already been reports of feral swine showing up in Colorado, North Dakota and Utah, and there’s serious concern over them pushing south from Canada into Montana.
Perhaps worse, people sometimes deliberately transplant feral hogs, apparently because they want the opportunity to make money by offering “canned” hog hunts, Montana’s state veterinarian, Martin Zaluski told Cowboy State Daily.
“Much of the spread of feral hogs has been in stock trailers being pulled down highways at 80 miles per hour,” he said.
They Reproduce Quickly
The hogs’ sheer reproductive capacity could make them nearly impossible to contain, Jay Fred Volk of Cheyenne told Cowboy State Daily. He recently participated in night-vison and aerial gunning hunts in Texas, where millions of hogs have caused widespread destruction of land and crops.
“A female hog can start reproducing as early as six months of age,” he said. “And she can have up to 3 litters of nine-15 piglets each year.”
He’s seen the havoc feral hogs can wreak up close.
“(During the Texas Trip) we were staying at a friend’s house in a pretty post subdivision, everybody had nicely-manicured lawns,” he said. “You would wake up in the morning and it would look like somebody took a roto-tiller to all of the yards, because of the hogs tearing them up.”
Hunter and guide Johnny Bergeson of Laramie agreed that feral hogs can be extremely destructive, so he really doesn’t want the in Wyoming.
“I would hope that Wyoming has enough open country that the citizens would be able to take care of them pretty quicky,” he told Cowboy State Daily.
Montana Holds The Northern Border
The Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan have feral swine infestations, so there is concern about hogs pushing southward in to Montana Zaluski said.
So far, Montana has been wild hog-free, but he’s not sure how much longer that will last. Feral swine have been reported in North Dakota, as well as in parts of Colorado and Utah as recently as 2018, Zaluski said.
“If you guys get feral swine in Wyoming, they’re probably going to come from there (Utah and Colorado) well before they come down from us,” he said.
Colorado Hog Scare Over, For Now
Colorado had some feral hogs showing up in the southeastern part of the state around 2018, Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Joey Livingston told Cowboy State Daily.
Game agents and farmers apparently killed them all, but the infiltration of more hogs remains a concern, he said.
“It’s something our officers in that southeast part of the state are constantly looking out for,” Livingston said. “The citizens down there are agricultural people, and they definitely don’t want feral swine on their land.”
There have been occasional reports of feral hogs in other parts of Colorado “including the West slope,” but those are difficult to confirm, he added.
Domestic pigs area also sometimes misidentified, Livingston said.
“We’ve even had reports of wild pigs in some cities. People will see a normal pig and think it’s a feral hog, so we’ll go there to investigate and discover that’s not the case.”
Bans On Commercial Hog Hunts
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department declined to comment on the subject of feral swine, but Colorado has designated them as an invasive species – essentially vermin to be killed on sight, Livingston said.
However, trying to set up guided hog hunts for profit is illegal in Colorado, he added.
Montana also preemptively banned offering feral hog hunts for profit, Zaluski said. The idea being to remove the temptation for people to deliberately transplant hogs to create paid hunting opportunities. Transporting feral swine is also illegal in Montana.
Violating those bans is punishable by fines of $2,000-$10,000, according to Montana statutes.
“I’m not in favor of hunting as a way to control feral swine,” Zaluski said, because once the hunts become a big-money venture, there could actually be more incentive to let the hogs keep reproducing than there is to eliminate them.
Volk confirmed that Texas hog hunts can be pricey, saying that the helicopter gunning sessions he participated in cost roughly $750-$1,000 per hour.
Volk said that during ground-based hunts in Texas, he used thermal imaging devices and night vision rifle scopes to find and kill hogs.
He favors House Bill 104, which would allow that equipment for hunting coyotes on public land in Wyoming. Currently, night-vision hunting for coyotes in Wyoming is allowed only on private property, with a landowner’s permission.
Avid outdoorsman and Lander resident Karl Brauneis told Cowboy State Daily that he opposes House Bill 104, but would make an exception for feral hogs.
“I am opposed to night hunting any native animal or predator on public land. If we ever end up with feral hogs on public land, I would be ok with that,” said Brauneis, a retired forester.