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  The Mammals of Texas - Online Edition

Feral Pig
Order Artiodactyla : Family Suidae : Sus scrofa Linnaeus

Description. Feral pigs in Texas are descended from introductions of European wild hogs for sporting purposes, and from escaped domestic swine that have established feral populations. European wild hogs have several distinguishing characteristics that set them apart from domestic or feral hogs. Among these are brown to blackish brown color, with grizzled guard hairs, a mane of hair (8-16 cm long) running dorsally from the neck to the rump, a straight heavily tufted tail, and ears covered with hair. Characteristics of feral hogs are varied, depending upon the breed of the ancestral stock. European wild hogs and feral hogs interbreed readily, with traits of European wild hogs apparently being dominant.

Distribution in Texas. Feral pigs have established sizeable, free-ranging populations in various places on the Rio Grande and Coastal Plains, as well as the wooded country of eastern Texas.

Habits. Good feral hog habitat in timbered areas consists of diverse forests with some openings. The presence of a good litter layer to support soil invertebrates and/or the presence of ground vegetation affording green forage, roots, and tubers is desirable. Hogs are also fond of marsh and grass-sedge flats in coastal areas, particularly if wild grapes are common. During hot summer months, "wallows," or depressions dug in the mud by feral hogs, are much in evidence near marshes or standing water, such as along roadside ditches.

On the Texas coast, feral pigs eat a variety of items, including fruits, roots, mushrooms, and invertebrates, depending on the season. The major foods in spring are herbage, roots, invertebrates, and vertebrates. Fruit, invertebrates, and herbage are most common in fall and winter diets. Herbage eaten by feral pigs includes water hyssop, pennywort, frog fruit, spadeleaf, onion, and various grasses while important roots used for food include bulrush, cattail, flatsedges, and spikesedges. Fruits and seeds such as grapes, acorns, and cultivated sorghum are important, and animal matter ingested by feral pigs includes earthworms, marsh fly larvae, leopard frogs, snakes, and rodents.

Feral pigs can have detectable influences on wildlife and plant communities as well as domestic crops and livestock. Extensive disturbance of vegetation and soil occurs as a result of their rooting habits. The disturbed area may cause a shift in plant succession on the immediate site. Feral pigs also compete, to some degree, with several species of wildlife for certain foods, particularly mast.

Feral pigs generally breed year round; litters range from one to seven, averaging two per sow. An average of one to three suckling pigs usually accompanies brood sows. The heat period is only about 48 hours in duration and the average gestation period is 115 days.