Officials plan to use satellites to track feral hogs that have been causing a lot of trouble in two parks in East Tennessee: the Big South Fork National River Recreation and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (where the species was introduces sometime during the early 1900s).
According to the World Conservation Union, because of their influence on the environment and because of their high reproductive capacity, feral hogs are without a doubt one of the most destructive invasive species.
The hogs in the two parks are a hybrid of feral swine (of domestic ancestry), and European wild boar. Biologists say that feral hogs can damage ecosystems, disrupt native wildlife, and can even spread disease. Because of their omnivorous diet, large segments of the food chain may be destroyed by the animals.
The National Park Service (NPS) said that not knowing the hogs’ whereabouts is also a problem, which is why wildlife biologists want to use GPS collars to track the animals’ movement around the parks in Tennessee. Similar technology is also used to study bears.
In the United States, the expansion of the feral hog population started hundreds of years ago. According to the National Park Service, they were brought to East Tennessee in the 1920s. Although researchers and park officials used various strategies to control the population of wild hogs, they had little to no success.
Bill Stiver, a wildlife biologist of the Smoky Mountains National Park, said that feral hogs are the most prolific large animal in North America. They can have two litters a year, each with up to eight piglets, and can breed at six months of age, Stiver added.
Wild hogs are also known to spread viral diseases, such as the pseudorabies. This disease could also affect the domestic pig populations, which is why feral hogs in Tennessee need to be monitored.
Last year, a satellite-tracking program was implemented in North Carolina for the same reasons. Stiver said that the illegal movement of feral hogs has become a problem nationwide, and that it has elevated the spread of the pseudorabies viral disease.
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