Yesterday, ARFF’s Communications Director was quoted in an article about wild pigs that appeared on the front page of FoxNews.com.
The article, like most news reports about wild pigs, was full of exaggerations and inaccuracies. For example, a St. Petersburg-based trapper told the FoxNews reporter that pigs, “have no natural predators, so there’s nothing to stop them.” That’s incorrect. The truth is that wild pigs are the primary food source for Florida’s top predator, the endangered Florida panther (there would be no Florida panthers without wild pigs). Alligators are also known to eat wild pigs.
The article also repeated a common misconception, that wild pigs pose a danger to humans by spreading “swine brucellosis.” Brucellosis is common in Florida’s wild pigs, it’s true that humans can contract the disease, and brucellosis infection can be serious (symptoms are similar to the flu), but to our knowledge, the only humans ever infected with the disease in Florida have been hunters. Brucellosis is a blood-borne disease. Hunters contract brucellosis through cuts in their hands during the butchering process. Brucellosis is not spread from human to human. So if you won’t be cutting open pigs, you’re safe from brucellosis (hunters can protect themselves by wearing gloves).
FoxNews.com receives millions of visitors each day, so you can imagine how the story resulted in a bump in visitors to ARFF’s website. Several dozen of those new visitors to arff.org were worked-up enough to send us an email. Most of the e-mails included language that we can’t repeat here, and many of the e-mails came from hunters who boasted of how they enjoy torturing and killing pigs. Another common theme was that pigs attack humans (there is no evidence to back up this claim). According to one frantic man who wrote from Georgia: “We aren’t talking Bambi, Wilber the pig, and Yogi Bear here, we are talking dangerous wild animals that will attack and kill human beings and will even eat small children if they get the chance.” Perhaps our favorite e-mail of the day ended with this question: “You people have lost it, for sure… What next? No meat in the grocery store?” Uh, have you heard of vegetarianism?
Wild pigs rooting and foraging for food can cause damage to human-modified habitats such as crop fields and manicured lawns. But there is nothing that justifies the horrible practices of hunters in Florida, such as the use of dogs to chase and attack wild pigs, the crude killing of pigs using knives or spears, or the castration of young male pigs without anesthesia.
Our challenge is to find humane methods of resolving conflicts between humans and wildlife effectively. Wild pigs have been part of the Florida landscape since the 16th century. It’s time that these wonderful animals be accepted as part of Florida’s wildlife.
Visit ARFF’s website to learn more about Florida’s wild pigs.