If I used the phrase “30-50 feral hogs” to you in a social situation, you would almost certainly have one of two reactions. Either it will bring back warm memories of laughing quietly to yourself some time on Tuesday night, and we will be able to share a joke, before maybe admitting that it’s worn a bit thin now and, frankly, it’s too late to be writing about it; or you won’t have the faintest clue what I’m talking about. From your reaction, I will be able to tell whether the social media platform Twitter is a big part of your life – whether you are, to use the jargon all the cool kids are using, “very online”.
I am very online – unusually so, for a man of my years – and feral hog Twitter is one of the best things to have happened on that benighted hellsite in what feels like a generation. In the middle of another depressing, repetitive argument about gun control laws in the US, this happened:
The incongruity of that tweet – the vast number of hogs in play, the difficulty of pinning them down to an exact figure, the specificity of the time period it takes them to get to the yard – all make for something that is, accidentally one assumes, incredibly funny. (I say “one assumes”: William McNabb, who sent it, now has a hog as his avatar, so who knows.) At any rate, on Monday night on Twitter you couldn’t move for parodies of it:
All this happened three days ago, which is about four hundred years in meme time. But CityMetric likes to stay at least 36 hours behind the news cycle at all times, just to ensure we have a properly discerning audience, and my colleague George just found a map, so let’s do this.
William McNabb, his profile says, lives in El Dorado, Arkansas, a city near the state’s southern border with Louisiana. Here’s a US Department of Agriculture (USDA) map of the country’ feral swine population. I’ve marked El Dorado with a red dot.
So – there really are feral swine rioting in much of the southern US, very possibly in close proximity to small children.
That map, you will notice, is from 1982. A lot of species are dying out because humanity is terrific, so perhaps in the intervening lifetime the problem will have got better, yes? No. Here’s the same map for 2004:
And again, for 2018:
The hogs, it seems, are taking over. Oh, yeah, and the reason they don’t seem bothered by the growth of industrial human civilisation is because it was humans that bought them to North America in the first place. From the USDA’s Animal & Planet Health Inspection Service:
Feral swine are not native to the Americas. They were first brought to the United States in the 1500s by early explorers and settlers as a source of food. Free-range livestock management practices and escapes from enclosures led to the first establishment of feral swine populations within the United States.
In the 1900s, the Eurasian or Russian wild boar was introduced into parts of the United States for the purpose of sport hunting. Today, feral swine are a combination of escaped domestic pigs, Eurasian wild boars, and hybrids of the two.
Or to put it another way, it’s all our fault.
Feral swine have been reported in at least 35 states. Their population is estimated at over 6 million and is rapidly expanding. Range expansion over the last few decades is due to a variety of factors including their adaptability to a variety of climates and conditions, translocation by humans, and a lack of natural predators.
At any rate: 30-50 feral hogs in your yard in Arkansas? Less unlikely than it sounds.
Stay tuned for CityMetric’s take on this hot new trend for really big cows that everyone was talking about some time last year.