Wild Boars in the bayou

Before I say anything about seeing feral hogs in a Louisiana bayou, I want you to watch this quick video I took. You'll get information about the hog in the video and a very good sampler of what the bayou accent sounds like in this part of the world.

The answer to your first question: yes, the tour guide was feeding the pig marshmallows on a stick.

If you didn't watch, there was much information on how the feral hogs are hunted (with dogs). But how did they get to the bayou in the first place? Rolling the clock way back to the 1500's, we find Spanish settlers bringing pigs over to the southern US as another type of livestock. Through the centuries, escape and release of these pigs has allowed them to populate the area and become a serious problem.

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How did they become feral? Easy. They are omnivorous and opportunistic. They eat mostly vegetation but can also stomach carrion. It doesn't take much to feed them and they live in a very fruitful biome. The swamp doesn't phase the hogs because they're great swimmers (all pigs are!) and their hide is tough and lends well to water.

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Because these hogs are from a diverse stock of pig species over many years, they come in every color. They reach a weight of 200 lbs. easily but have been known to surpass 400 lbs. Since they are feral, their tusks are left untouched and become nasty weapons. Tusks, which are actually the canine teeth in pigs, can reach 3 inches (~8 cm) in feral hogs.

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Feral hogs are often seen in groups called sounders. These sounders consist of breeding age females, mothers and babies. Male hogs are generally solitary.

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Earlier I mentioned that the hogs were an issue. They're problematic for humans in two ways: 1) They can transmit diseases to humans (Swine Brucellosis), who contract it by handling or ingesting infected tissues and fluids; 2) Their rooting behavior causes damage to crops, golf courses, levees, tree farms and lawns. They will also eat baby farm animals.

To avoid contraction of Swine Brucellosis, hunters are urged to wear gloves while processing meats and to cook pork thoroughly. To address the destruction issue, hunting of the hogs via snaring, shooting, trapping and cornering with dogs has become a sport in the area. Feral hogs can have 2 litters of piglets per year at 10 piglets per litter so their population must be kept in check with hunters. Unlimited hogs may be harvested on private property.

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Just a quick note on the distinction of wild pigs. These wild boars or feral hogs do occur in Texas, however, another hunted porcine species also occurs there. The javalina or peccary. They are two different beasts.

I raised pigs as a child on a farm and it was strange to see one in the swamp. Anyone who has ever been around pigs much knows their smell. I definitely smelled them before I saw them from the boat. Musky.

See you Sunday with more Newfoundland birds!

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Life on the Bayou

"There can be no very black melancholy to him who lives in the midst of Nature and has his senses still." -Henry David Thoreau

Something a bit different today! While I was in the southern US, I ventured west from Florida to New Orleans and while there, meandered down to Holmes Bayou for a day. I have several animal-related posts from that mystical Louisiana bayou but today we're going to take a look at the life of the most familiar animal of all. Or the least familiar, depending on who you ask. Humans. Specifically, the homes that they have constructed on the bayou so that they may sustain themselves of its offerings.

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There are still wild people everywhere you go. People who live in cypress swamps fraught with tropical storms and snakes. Beautiful snakes. People who live deep in the woods and are happy to continue surviving off the land for generations.

Stay tuned for more blogs from the bayou and more Florida birds as well.