Sus scrofa Photo Barry Mansell ©
The European wild boar is the most widely distributed suid (pigs) in the world, thanks in part to introductions by colonial traders and immigrants. Spanish settlers first brought pigs to Florida in 1539, making Florida one of the earliest states and quite possibly the first state in the continental US to have a feral pig population. These feral pigs, also known as wild boar or wild hog, are highly regarded for their meat and are widely hunted.
Wild pigs are omnivores: they feed on mast (nuts), mushrooms, fruit, berries, and grass. They will also eat just about any type of animal life, including snakes, frogs, salamanders, ground-nesting birds, eggs, insects and carrion. The early settlers in Florida called them ‘piney woods rooters’, which recognizes the fact that pigs spend a lot of time rooting in the ground with their broad noses, looking for bulbs, tubers and anything else edible. An area recently rooted by pigs looks as if it has just been plowed.
Wild pigs cause serious damage to native fauna and flora. Orchids, lilies, and bog and swamp plants are particularly vulnerable to the rooting behavior of pigs. Salamanders and other native amphibians and reptiles are also extremely vulnerable, as many of these species live in moist soil, and under logs and stones — exactly the places where pigs forage. Despite efforts to eliminate them, the feral pig population in Florida is currently stable or expanding.
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