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I had often heard about how dangerous and destructive feral swine can be, but what I had heard became more relevant when my family saw two of them in a wooded area near our campsite at a state park in Oklahoma over Labor Day weekend.
It made me think of a time when I was talking to a southern Kansas farmer who had a close encounter with one on his property. “It’s pretty scary when one of those comes upon you and you have nothing but a pair of pliers to defend yourself,” he said.
I also recalled the summer between my junior and senior years in high school, when I worked at a nearby livestock auction barn. My dad had also worked there for years, and he made sure my job was sorting cattle rather than hogs, because he said he had seen several workers get wounded by the pigs’ tusks.
Fortunately, the feral swine in Oklahoma never strayed into our campsite, and we enjoyed a nice weekend with nature, despite the fact that I only caught one fish.
A week after we returned from the camping trip, while attending the Kansas State Fair, one of the booths we stopped at had some brochures on the risks of feral swine. While visiting with a staff member representing the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), I was told that the feral swine problem in Kansas seemed to be improving, but we should still be on the lookout for them as they are not only physically dangerous and can cause great damage to farm lands, but also because they have the potential to carry with them numerous diseases.
I picked up two brochures and read through them. One of those showed all of the diseases that feral swine could carry. There were three categories of diseases listed: bacterial diseases, viral diseases, and parasitic diseases. All of the listed diseases can be transmitted to domestic swine, and many of those are transmittable to humans.
Here are 18 diseases that feral swine can carry, according to APHIS:
Most people involved in the pig industry are knowledgeable about these diseases and how horrible it can be if their herds, or the people they care about contract one of these diseases.
If nothing else, seeing this list proves the need that government agencies continue with feral swine eradication efforts and that ample supplies of vaccines are available to protect U.S. pig herds.