Feral hogs are one animal not in short supply. They are a problem across much of the Southern United States and they are a big problem in Italy.
The exact number of hogs in Italy is unknown, but one estimate suggests a staggering 23,000 may be infesting the streets of Rome alone.
The hogs root for trash and leftover food and seem to find enough. Pigs are prolific breeders. Domestic sows can deliver two litters year of 10 or more piglets. Their wild sisters also deliver two litters annually, each with up to six youngsters. There is a great amount of variation in litter size.. however. Feral females can deliver up to 14 piglets and they can breed as early as 4 months of age, although most females start breeding some months later. They also may breed more than twice.
If the sight of pigs rooting on their streets doesn’t disturb Romans there have been some attacks on humans. Now veterinarians have found at least three hog carcasses with African Swine Fever (ASF). ASF cannot be transmitted to humans and is not a food safety issue, It is a highly contagious virus that impacts pigs and other livestock. It has been found in much of the world. Since there is no treatment or cure the only solution known is to kill impacted populations. The disease has not been found in the United States.
Italians are taking the basic measures by controlling trash and otherwise discouraging the pigs from foraging. But they are considering two other more drastic measures.
The first, as mentioned, is to kill the pigs en masse until they are reduced to tolerable numbers.
The second is to call out the wolves. In the United States the list of predators that eat feral hogs is longer than might be expected. But most of the predators only eat hogs occasionally and mostly they contribute to the 30 percent mortality rate among piglets.
Wolves in Europe may be a different matter. Italian wolves were, like those in the United States, nearly annihilated. They are, however, making a comeback and 2,000 are thought to live in the country today. Pig remains are turning up in wolf droppings near Rome. There is some evidence wolves in Italy prefer feral pigs over other prey.
Calling out the wolves may not prove popular if Italians, who until recently slaughtered wolves, continue to fear them. They are opportunists and will not eat pigs on command. In the United States the slow reintroduction of wolves has met with opposition and it is hard to think Italy will be different.