Scientific Name: Sus scrofa
Abundance: Disjunct populations statewide
Feral Swine (Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Feral Swine (Photo: NASA)
Feral swine crop damage (Photo: Tyler Campbell/USDA)
Feral swine damage (Photo: Tyler Campbell/USDA)
Also referred to as wild boar and feral hogs, feral swine are defined as any free-ranging member of the species Sus scrofa (NC General Statute § 113-129 (5c)), which also includes all domestic pig breeds. Domestic swine were originally released in North Carolina as a source of food for European explorers in the 1500s. Additional releases over the years, popularization of “boar” hunting, and decades of protection as a game animal (1979-2011) led to expanding populations across the state.
Feral swine cause significant damage to plant communities and wildlife habitat during rooting activities while they search of food, and directly impact native species by preying on ground nesting birds and white-tailed deer fawns. On agricultural and developed lands, feral swine cause an estimated $1.5 billion per year in damages to crops, landscaping, and cultural sites across the U.S. Feral swine also carry a variety of diseases that pose substantial risk to livestock, wildlife, humans, and pets. Due to these factors, they are considered invasive and undesirable as free-ranging animals on North Carolina’s landscape. Illegal releases continue to supplement the growing population, making control of these destructive animals challenging.
Learn more by reading the Feral Swine wildlife profile (PDF).
North Carolina Feral Swine Regulations (PDF)
Transport and Release of Feral Swine
It is illegal to transport or release feral swine (any swine not meeting NC Department of Agriculture’s permitting, tagging, and health certificate requirements under General Statute § 106-798). During transport, any swine not possessing official identification is presumed to be feral and is subject to a fine of up to $5,000 for each animal.
Once classified as a game animal and protected for sport hunting purposes, it is now clear that the problems feral swine cause on the landscape far outweigh any positive benefits they provide. The goal of recent legislative changes and rule modifications is to make it easier to remove feral swine from the landscape and to prevent relocation and establishment of feral swine in areas they do not currently exist. These exotic non-native animals compete with native wildlife and pose significant threats to the environment and agricultural operations. The WRC will continue to evaluate opportunities to facilitate aggressive removal of feral swine.
Currently, feral swine are classified as nongame animals, with no closed hunting season on private lands and no bag limits. All persons hunting feral swine at any time must have a valid hunting license or must be exempt from having a license pursuant to G.S. 113-276. Feral swine may be hunted at night with lights and electronic calls may be used. On game lands, a permit is required to take feral swine from ½ hour after sunset to ½ hour before sunrise and feral swine can only be taken by licensed hunters during the open season for any game animal using any legal manner of take allowed during those seasons. Also on game lands, dogs may not be used to hunt feral swine except on those game lands that allow the use of dogs for hunting deer or bear and during the applicable deer or bear season. Rules associated with hunting feral swine and additional hunting information can be found in the N.C. Inland Fishing, Hunting, and Trapping Regulations Digest.
Hunters should be familiar with disease risks associated with handling and consuming feral swine and take precautions to reduce the risk of exposure to disease pathogens. To receive a free feral swine disease test kit, contact the NCDA&CS Veterinary Division at 919-707-3250.
CDC Feral Swine and Brucellosis Information
Diseases of Feral Swine Brochure (PDF)
Recommendations for Disposal of Swine Carcasses (PDF)
When done correctly, trapping is one of the most efficient and effective methods for controlling local populations of feral swine.
Feral swine are extreme habitat generalists and can survive in most areas, though they prefer to stay near streams or other sources of water. They are highly intelligent, breed rapidly, and have few natural predators, making control of their population challenging, but not impossible.
How can I get rid of feral swine?
A comprehensive approach that includes trapping, shooting, exclusion, and/or hazing is most effective at managing feral swine problems. Control efforts in areas outside of North Carolina have shown that recreational hunting has little to no effect on feral hog populations. However, corral trapping of entire sounders combined with shooting can effectively eliminate swine from an area. Refer to the Regulations tab on this page to learn about trapping regulations for feral swine. Fencing and chasing with dogs can also be used to keep swine out of particular locations, especially in areas where trapping or shooting may be impractical. If you are experiencing problems with feral swine, contact the NC Wildlife Helpline at 866-318-2401 or email@example.com for guidance.
Recommendations for Disposal of Swine Carcasses (PDF)
What is currently being done?
The NC Wildlife Resources Commission is a member of the NC Feral Swine Task Force, a collaboration among several government agencies including the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), NC Department of Agriculture (NCDA), and NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS). The current goal of the task force is to learn more about the impacts of feral swine in NC, and search for effective and collaborative management solutions. While several agencies do what they can to manage swine within their jurisdiction, the problem is too large for any single method, or “silver bullet” solution. You can help by reporting any feral swine sightings, encounters, or swine-related damage to the NC Wildlife Helpline at 866-318-2401 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are feral hogs dangerous?
While unlikely to be aggressive toward humans, swine are very capable of defending themselves from a threat. Given a choice, wild pigs usually flee rather than fight. Clapping your hands or making other loud noises (i.e. "hazing") will usually scare swine away.
Feral swine carry at least 30 diseases and nearly 40 parasites that can affect humans, pets, livestock, and wildlife. Diseases like brucellosis can be transmitted when people handle or consume feral swine meat. Fresh feral swine carcasses can be tested for disease before consumption. For more information on feral swine disease testing, contact the NC Department of Agriculture & Customer Services - Veterinary Division at 919-306-3933.
Feral swine are invasive in North Carolina and highly destructive on the landscape. In the past decade, complaints and damages have increased along with a growing feral swine population. The Wildlife Resources Commission, as a member of the NC Feral Swine Task Force, is partnering with other agencies in NC to learn more about this growing problem. Please report any feral swine sightings, damage, or kills to the NC Wildlife Helpline at 866-318-2401 or email@example.com.
Feral swine are remarkably intelligent and quickly learn to avoid hazards in their environment. For this reason, removal of an entire sounder via corral trapping is usually the most practical and effective method for removing swine from an area. Though hunting feral swine can be used to frighten or take individual animals, remaining animals quickly learn to avoid hunters and become more difficult to remove. Past control efforts outside of North Carolina have shown that recreational hunting is ineffective as a management tool for reducing feral swine populations and is associated with the spread of feral swine to new areas through illegal releases as well as increased desire by the hunting public to maintain or increase populations of free-ranging pigs on the landscape.
USDA Feral Swine Management
Managing Wild Pigs - A Technical Guide
2017-2021 Feral Swine Hunting and Harvest Estimate Maps
2005-2021 Feral Swine Harvest and Hunter Trends (PDF)
Feral Swine species profile
Feral Swine: Impacts to Native Wildlife
Feral Swine: Impacts to Game Species
Feral Swine: Impacts on Threatened and Endangered Species
Feral Swine: Damages, Disease Threats, and Other Risks
Feral Swine: Overview of a Growing Problem
Feral Swine Article in the Spring 2019 Upland Gazette
The Wildlife Society - Feral Swine Fact Sheet
NC Feral Swine Task Force
Feral Swine Federal Task Force News (4th Quarter 2019) - PDF