Of all the animals featured on this site, none is possessed of a more contrary nature than the wild pig (sus scrofa).
Hated and prized. Pursued and protected. The Jekyll and Hyde of American game.
While we may have a hard time figuring out what to make of these creatures, one fact is indisputably clear - they’re among the most damaging invasive species in the United States.
Feeding on just about anything, the rooting of wild pigs tears up parks and publicly owned spaces beyond recognition, edging out native wildlife and severely damaging agricultural operations in the process. Due to their enormous size, pigs possess a voracious and incredibly mobile appetite, one that can turn once pristine wildlands into vast expanses of turned up dirt.
Like a plague on hooves, they arrive, they feed and they move on.
Introduced in the 1500s by Spanish explorers, wild pigs were an intelligent, adaptable and extremely fertile introduction to the New World, one that has quickly adapted to its new home. Today, there are roughly six million of these bristle-haired beasts wandering the southern half of the country.
You would think that a species with such devastating impacts would be hated, a target for eradication by any means necessary. Some states, such as Texas, have taken this approach, effectively waging war on feral pigs through the ever-growing willingness of the public.
Perhaps no where else in the country can you hunt herds of swine with a semi-automatic weapon from a moving helicopter.
Despite their best efforts, the pig population in the Lone Star state is thriving, likely do to the prodigious nature of feral pigs. According to some experts, a population of pigs reduced to just a quarter of its numbers can be back to full strength in only three or four years.
Other states, including my native California, have taken a different approach.
Here, pig hunting is an intensely regulated operation, one that requires the purchase of tags and immediate reporting of harvest to state authorities. Here, pigs are treated like big game animals, ones that need to be delicately managed in order to ensure thriving populations for years to come.
Why, you ask? Well, money’s always a good place to start.
Since 2004, the price of a pig tag in California has gone up nearly 1,200 percent, yet hunters are still willing to cough up the cash. In fact, wild pigs will soon surpass, or have already surpassed (depending on whose data you use), the Columbia blacktail as the state’s number one quarry for big game hunters.
These figures shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Wild pigs are made of out pork, after all.
Yes, for all its destructive habits, the wild pig is one of the more edible species featured on this site. From a taxonomic standpoint, its virtually identical to the domestic pigs with which we’ve long had a culinary infatuation, but as with everything else about these animals, their applications in the kitchen are far from straightforward.
Shoot a smaller pig and you’ll be in pork heaven. Bag a big boar and it’s funk stew for you.
When dealing with an animal that’s both hated and loved by American sportsmen, I don’t know why you’d expect anything different.