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Feral Swine in the Northwest

Feral swine have recently invaded parts of the Northwest. They have been invading southwestern and central Oregon since 2004 and were first detected in Washington in 2016. Idaho has not seen significant numbers of feral swine, however migrating pigs may pose a threat. The population growth potential of feral swine is closely associated with food availability, which is becoming more abundant year-round due to warmer winter conditions that are linked to climate change.[1] Projected increases in extreme events and average summer temperatures in the region are not expected to negatively impact the success of feral pigs.[2] In response, timely population control measures are necessary to avoid damage to crops, forests, and rangelands.  

Feral swine and associated types of damage they can cause
Damage caused by feral swine: soil disturbance , competition with cattle, tree damage, and digging up soil (upper left to right).

Why are feral swine a problem? Feral swine are destructive to crops, pastures, and livestock, causing over two billion dollars in damages to US agriculture each year through a combination of:

  • Eating crops and trampling or wallowing on cropland (damaging aggregate stability and organic matter)
  • Damaging orchards and vineyards by digging in the soil (rooting), scratching, and marking territory
  • Rooting pastures and damaging or killing desirable pasture species
  • Harming livestock, especially lambs and calves, by spreading diseases and parasites
  • Damaging irrigation lines, nets, trellises, and other infrastructure

Feral pigs are highly destructive to ecosystems as a whole by:

  • Contaminating water supply
  • Damaging soil organic matter and nutrient stability
  • Spreading pathogens that can spread to humans
  • Reducing diversity of trees by rooting and foraging in forests
  • Displacing wildlife, such as deer and turkey, by depleting food sources
  • Damaging native grassland plants, providing opportunities for establishment by invasive plants
  • Damaging wild plants by eating and rooting

What can managers and landowners do to prevent further spread of feral swine in the Northwest?

  • Identify and report the presence of feral swine to state agencies and collaborating organizations in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho
  • Share this information and spread the word to colleagues and neighbors
  • Do not relocate feral swine
  • Contact your state fish and wildlife department to acquire hunting licenses where required. Note that the majority of pigs are currently on private lands that require landowner permission but not a license to hunt. There are tips here about how to safely eat and dispose of hunted feral swine.
  • Northwest farmers that produce grain sorghum, wheat, oats, corn, vegetables, and fruit at any scale are vulnerable to damages from feral swine. Because they are extremely difficult to control, it is critical that producers and managers coordinate efforts to prevent invasion, maintain detection efforts, and reduce numbers as soon as feral swine are found. Several programs already exist that can help landowners and managers in their efforts toward prevention and control, including the coordinated, tri-state effort, “Squeal on Pigs.”