Swine damage local farmland, risk water quality


To the editor:

Feral swine, Susscrofa, also known as feral hogs, are invasive to the United States and are located in at least 37 states, with their range quickly expanding. The invasion of feral swine can be attributed to the introduced Eurasian boar, released or escaped domestic pigs and cross-breeds of the two. Feral swine have high reproductive rates, allowing their populations to triple in just one year.

Feral swine have long plagued southern and western states, and are now becoming a serious problem in New York. Their range has expanded to six New York counties, including Onondaga. Many New Yorkers are now experiencing the devastating impacts attributed to feral swine.

Currently, feral swine populations in New York are low, and eradication efforts have been undertaken by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and APHIS Wildlife Services.

Locally, Skaneateles Lake water quality, agricultural and forest lands, and residents are at risk. Skaneateles Lake is this area's source of drinking water, and the presence of feral swine threatens its purity. Along stream banks, feral swine behavior is similar to that of a rototiller, uprooting and trampling soil that washes into streams and suffocates fish, aquatic plants and other biota. They destroy native vegetation, which allows for the re-vegetation of invasive plants in damaged areas. Foreseeable impacts in and around Skaneateles Lake include increased need for wetland restoration, water treatment and noxious weed control.

Native wildlife habitat is at risk. Feral swine directly compete with wildlife, including deer, turkey and waterfowl, by rooting up the ground searching for nuts, and consuming nests and eggs of ground-nesting birds and reptiles. Feral swine will even kill and eat fawns and small mammals. Their rooting and wallowing behavior destroys native vegetation, causes erosion and negatively affects water quality.

Farmers and homeowners have experienced intense damage from feral swine, which has caused alarming economic loss. They eat and uproot crops and lawns, attack livestock and pets, and damage fences and infrastructure. Swine cause agricultural damage to crops such as soy, wheat, corn and hay, some of the major commodities in the Skaneateles Lake watershed. According to the USDA, feral swine act as vectors for at least 30 viral and bacterial diseases and 37 parasites that affect people, livestock, and/or wildlife.

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