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Feral Hogs Contribute As Much To Climate Change As One Million Cars

A taxidermied feral hog was on display at a 2019 open house in Rolla, Missouri, to get comment about hunting in the Mark Twain National Forest.
Jonathan Ahl
Harvest Public Media
A taxidermied feral hog was on display at a 2019 open house in Rolla, Missouri, to get comment about hunting in the Mark Twain National Forest.

Feral hogs cause a myriad of environmental problems in a growing number of states, and a new study says they also are adding to climate change.

Feral hogs do not have natural predators in the Americas, Asia and most of Africa, so they are damaging agriculture and recreational land as well as threatening native plants and animals. 

But a new study published in the journal Global Change Biology shows that the damage wild pigs do to the ground also adds more carbon to the atmosphere. 

“Wild pigs are an incredibly multi-threat species, more or less. They impact agriculture and biodiversity,” said Chris O’Bryan, a researcher at the University of Queensland in Australia and lead author of the study. “Our new study shows that they can impact soil carbon emissions.”

O’Bryan said that the damage results from the way feral hogs dig into the ground for food.

“As they are uprooting the soil, it exposes the soil to oxygen, so that’s one way in which the carbon is released. Because that promotes the rapid development of microbes that can then break down the organic material in the soil,” O’Bryan said.

The study shows that in the U.S. alone, the animals dig up an area the size of Puerto Rico, releasing carbon into the air. Worldwide, feral hogs are responsible for the same amount of carbon emissions as more than a million cars each year. 

States including Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas and Illinois have long dealt with feral hogs, as they multiply quickly and reduction strategies such as hunting and trapping have not slowed them down. 

O’Bryan said the carbon footprint of wild pigs will likely increase in the coming years, and the impact of feral hogs on climate change should be the subject of additional research.

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Jonathan Ahl
Jonathan Ahl reports from Missouri for Harvest Public Media. He also is the Rolla Reporter for St. Louis Public Radio. Before coming to St. Louis Public Radio in November of 2018, Jonathan was the General Manager for Tri States Public Radio in Macomb, Illinois. He previously was the News Director at Iowa Public Radio and before that at WCBU in Peoria, Illinois. Jonathan has also held reporting positions in central Illinois for public radio stations. Jonathan is originally from the Chicago area. He has a B.A. in Music Theory and Composition from Western Illinois University and an M.A. in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield. He is an avid long distance runner, semi-professional saxophonist and die-hard Chicago Cubs fan.