Case Study: EDUCATION & AWARENESS CAMPAIGN // USDA APHIS FERAL SWINE
VIDEO - PHOTO - STORY
Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona, Georgia. 2019-ongoing
The USDA has commissioned Modoc to document the underreported feral swine crisis spreading around the U.S. as part of a nationwide public outreach campaign.
Deliverables include short documentary films from locations across the U.S., still images, and earned media articles appearing in relevant publications. Since 2019 we have reported and produced films in Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona, and Georgia (COVID delayed production in 2020).
The Ultimate Invasive Species
Feral swine, aka wild hog, are not a natural part of the North American ecosystem. The invasives cause over $1 billion in damages to crops and habitat in the U.S. each year. They eat sea turtle eggs and newborn goats. They root up acres of freshly planted corn in a night. Wild hogs carry over 20 communicable diseases. A sounder (group) of wild hogs killed a woman in her yard in a residential Houston neighborhood in 2019, and they roam the streets of San Juan, Puerto Rico with near impunity.
We won't hunt our way out of our hog problem. In 1982 feral swine were found in 17 states. Now they are in 35. The spread can be traced to hunters transporting trapped hogs to new hunting locations where they spread like wildfire.
"As an economist, we look at all invasive species damage in 3 categories: destruction, disease transmission, depredation (eating crops).
Feral swine far exceed all expectations on all three categories. And they can live everywhere and they reproduce so fast. Python, for instance, only lives in FL and doesn’t spread disease."
Chapter 1. Mississippi
The Original Fast Food
Pigs arrived to the Americas in the 1500s from their native Europe with Hernán Cortés and Hernando de Soto. The animals’ ability to find food and survive almost anywhere made them an ideal food source for the stop-and-go expeditions. The New World explorers could leave hogs on Caribbean islands, on islands in the Mississippi River, and in bottomland forests as they traversed the interior of the U.S. When the explorers needed food, they simply went into the woods and shot a hog. The fast-food protein resource never thinned since female hogs can begin reproducing at 6 months of age, yielding up to 14 hogs per litter, and breeding twice a year. No other large mammal breeds as prolifically as the wild hog. And few animals are as adaptive, tough, and smart as the hog. As they say in Texas, “If a female hog gives birth to 10 babies, 12 will survive.”
Chapter 2. Oklahoma
"Hunting boogers 'em up. They leave your place and scatter across the country side and make night runs to you. We were harvesting this fall and I was going home at dusk. I saw this big ole boar. I drove nice and gentle. He didn’t spook. I parked and I dropped him. Looked like he had Russian boar – real hairy, big tusk, heavy front end. Probably bred with something that escaped from a game farm. I’ll shoot a single boar, but I’m not shooting a sounder, that trains them to run."
Martin Mount, pecan grower, Oklahoma
"This isn’t a game to these farmers and ranchers. It’s their livelihood. They don't need somebody to come out with a dog to catch one or two hogs and leave. They need to put a trap up and they need these feral hogs gone."
Kenny Kellet, USDA Wildlife Services ranger, Oklahoma
Chapter 3. Texas
"If feral hogs got African Swine Fever or foot-and-mouth disease. It could shut our trade down. A disease outbreak via hogs would impact big economic factors like GDP and jobs.”
Dr. Stephanie Shwiff, Research Economist/Project Leader for the USDA’s National Wildlife Research Center
Chapter 4. Arizona