Unsavory Beasts

The threat of feral swine has Washington on alert.

With a name like "Squeal on Pigs," you know it's got to be serious. And serious is exactly how officials with the Washington Invasive Species Council describe the threat posed by feral swine. This, according to the Council, is the reasoning behind the Squeal on Pigs campaign, a recently launched joint effort by Washington, Oregon, and Idaho to take down feral swine.

While feral swine, feared for their ability to spread disease, have already left their mark on Oregon, Idaho, and many other parts of the country, Council spokesperson Susan Zemek says our state is in an "enviable position" to head off the potential problem. "We don't believe [feral swine are] a huge problem in Washington, because we've had very few reports," says Zemek, noting two sightings in our state since the 1990s.

Still, Zemek says, "there's not a big awareness" of the issue, which is what the Squeal on Pigs campaign aims to change. Since a feral-swine problem could cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars should the animals gain a foothold, the Council has opted for a proactive approach.

According to the Council's website, invasivespecies.wa.gov, feral swine—"prolific breeders" that were brought to the United States from Europe and Asia and have since escaped or been set free—are extremely aggressive. The animals prefer a habitat with abundant water and dense cover, but are also "extremely adaptable." Females typically weigh between 77 and 330 pounds, while a feral boar can weigh anywhere from 130 to a whopping 440 pounds.

And, as Zemek points out, the bastards can swim—meaning rivers won't stop their migration. Zemek says feral swine also dig like crazy, which can be extremely destructive to agricultural fields as well as ponds and wetlands, where aquatic vegetation can be severely impacted.

The Squeal on Pigs campaign has created a hotline and online system to report sightings, to be later investigated by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. Zemek says that if a feral-swine population is confirmed, the pigs will be trapped, removed, or killed.

Operation Squeal on Pigs is in full effect.

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