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$1M put in SC budget to kill feral hogs that destroy crops and property

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$1M put in SC budget to kill feral hogs that destroy crops and property

Nov 15, 2023 | 3:52 pm ET
By Skylar Laird
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Legislators spending $1M to kill feral hogs that destroy crops and property
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Feral hogs root around in a field. The hogs cause an estimated $115 million of damage in South Carolina each year. (Provided/Marion Barnes, Clemson Extension)

COLUMBIA — As Congaree National Park closes overnight to get rid of feral hogs, state and federal officials are coordinating plans to reduce the number of pesky pigs statewide. 

A pilot program in South Carolina overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture reduced the population of feral hogs on monitored land by about 70%, reining in damage from wild animals that not only destroy property and carry disease but can attack people, according to findings in a federal report.

But the federal funding that paid for the program in Jasper, Hampton and Newberry counties since 2018 has dried up. A $1 million earmark in the state budget is meant to continue and expand efforts, said Rep. Phillip Lowe, a Florence Republican who sponsored the money. 

Feral swine have long been a problem for South Carolina and other southern states. Early American settlers brought the pigs as a source of food. But when the swine escaped their fields or enclosures, feral hog populations took hold.

“A lot of people call it a pig explosion,” said Noel Myers, state director of the USDA’s wildlife services.

The population exploded largely because female hogs can have up to two litters annually, bearing four to 12 piglets each time, according to the USDA. While the roving populations are hard to track, at last count, South Carolina had at least 150,000 feral hogs, according to the state Department of Natural Resources. 

There's nothing good I can say about a feral hog

– Marion Barnes, senior agent with Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service

The invasive hogs trample and root around on farmers’ land, suburban yards and natural preserves, causing an estimated $115 million in damages per year, according to the South Carolina Farm Bureau. 

Feral hogs have been a consistent nuisance at Congaree National Park near Columbia, which will close Wednesday night through Thursday so staff can shoot the swine. Congaree closes regularly to get rid of feral hogs that damage the ecosystem. But recently hogs had been approaching visitors, according to a news release from the park

“There’s nothing good I can say about a feral hog,” said Marion Barnes, a senior agent with Clemson University’s Cooperative Extension Service. 

The $1 million earmark is the biggest single allocation the state has put toward the effort. A total of $1.25 million over the last two years supplemented federal funding.

In the three pilot counties, USDA staff partnered with 93 landowners to help trap and kill the hogs damaging their properties. 

“They’re farmers. They’re not trappers,” Myers said. “It takes a lot of effort.”