Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Invasive species are almost always a severe problem. Any time you introduce an animal or plant into an environment that has never known that creature or vegetation, there is room for trouble. Lots of it. By now, we've all heard horror stories of snakehead fish and fire ants and gypsy moths and chestnut blight and...well, the list is hideous and growing longer every year. You might not be able to see it, but the photo below shows some of the topical effects of a certain invasive species that is causing quite a lot of trouble in the Congaree National Park. What you probably don't notice is the churned earth on the left hand side of the photo, between the water line and the lighter colored dirt.

This is the handywork of feral pigs. And these are no ordinary pigs--not just livestock gone wild, as you may encounter here and there all over the south. These are a hybrid of such animals and Russian wild boar that were brought in some time back to afford hunting opportunities for sportsmen.

These pigs do a number on the forest ecosystem. They root around in the forest floor looking for anything edible. And pigs are about as omnivorous as anything around. Their appetites will handle as full a range of tasty comestibles as any bear. Plus, their feeding habits are far more destructive than any bruin.

They use those flexible snouts and dagger-like tusks and prodigious mass to plow up the earth like a biological machine churning its way through the bottom lands.
They will eat succulent sprouts. They consume any nut or acorn they can sniff out. These pigs will gobble up any snail, spider, beetle, ant, or grub or egg therefrom. Snakes are a tasty snack. As are salamanders, frogs, lizards and turtles; and the eggs that go with those critters. Any mammal or bird that gets in their way is on the menu, too. Anything, in fact, that they can kill--which is a considerable list when you understand that they have a set of extremely powerful jaws armed with great slashing teeth and enough mass behind them to rival bears. And, yes, they eat carrion, too.

The Congaree forest is having a tough time supporting new pine tree growth because so many wild hogs are in there eating the nuts before they can take root and grow. Basically, the hogs need to be eliminated. As the National Park Service has discovered in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, success can be had when battling the wild boar, but it will likely be a long and sustained fight to get rid of them. We'll see what happens.

The remains of a wild boar that we passed on the long hike. As you can see, they have more of the Russian boar about them than of domestic pig gone wild.

Tusks. Zowie!

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