Summary and Frequently Asked Questions
Feral hogs are four-legged ecological disasters. They cause damage to wildlife habitat wherever they exist. The only place hogs should be found is within the confines or boundaries of their owner’s property as a livestock or domestic animal, where they are cared for according to all livestock or domestic animal regulations. Anywhere outside of these physical and regulatory boundaries they are a direct threat to our natural resources, environmental quality, and agricultural interests. Any feral hog (see definition below) found should be dispatched immediately, assuming you have permission and do so in accordance with all state and local ordinances. If you successfully shoot or trap any hogs, please the Virginia Wildlife Conflict Helpline toll-free at 1-855-571-9003 to report the situation. DGIF or USDA-Wildlife Services (USDA-WS) staff may want to take a blood sample of the animal(s) for our ongoing disease surveillance program. While shooting a feral hog on your property is not necessarily a bad thing if you have the opportunity, the DGIF strongly discourages recreational (sport) hunting of feral hogs, even if done so in the name of control, because it does not work to control populations and actually leads to more feral hogs. The seemingly innocent act of attempting to hunt feral hogs for eradication or control purposes unintentionally feeds the growing feral hog problem in Virginia. Feral hogs create interest in feral hog hunting. Increased overall interest in feral hog hunting in Virginia is leading to more and more new populations through human actions that introduce feral hogs to new areas.
What is a feral hog?
Feral hogs in Virginia are defined as “any swine that are wild or for which no proof of ownership can be made” and are designated as a nuisance species per the Code of Virginia (§29.1-100) and the Virginia Administrative Code 4VAC15-20-160. Escaped domestic hogs can become feral hogs if not recaptured and kept in an agricultural practice. All feral hogs – wild pigs, wild hogs, wild boars, and Russian boars – are of the species Sus scrofa and fall under this designation despite color of hair or any other physical differences hogs may have. Hunters must assure they are not harvesting anyone’s livestock or domestic animal. Is the animal marked in any way (tags, collars, notched ears)? Are you close to a known pig farm? Do your neighbors or the family down the street own hogs? These are all common-sense things that must be considered. The fact that feral hogs exist in Virginia and are defined does not grant any hunter immunity from unlawfully harvesting someone’s livestock or domestic hog.
What are the seasons and regulations for feral hogs? Do I need a license or special permit?
Since feral hogs are considered a nuisance species, there is a continuous open season with no bag limit. Feral hogs can be killed at night and over bait, although extreme caution should be exercised when doing so to ensure compliance with other laws, regulations and local ordinances. The minimum .23 caliber restriction for big game does not apply to designated nuisance species in Virginia; however, common sense should dictate the caliber of choice to match the size and construction of an animal being harvested. An adult feral hog can be heavier than a mature white-tailed deer and is structurally a much tougher animal. Local firearm ordinances apply to the hunting of nuisance species. It is always a hunter’s responsibility to know the applicable local firearm ordinances. You will need a hunting license in order to hunt nuisance species, and the cased gun law remains in effect for all National Forest lands and Wildlife Management Areas (see under “Firearms” section here).
Is feral hog meat safe to consume?
Yes and no. While feral hog meat can be and is safely consumed frequently in the U.S. and Virginia, there are definitely more risks than with eating meat from our native game species. To learn more we strongly encourage you to consult the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s website regarding feral hogs and human health here: Please click here for more information.
Why are feral hogs not managed as a game species?
The DGIF is very concerned about feral hogs on the landscape. They can be extremely destructive to native habitats and create significant competition for our native wildlife, particularly for limited food resources such as acorns. Feral hogs can harbor a multitude of diseases that can be detrimental to native wildlife, livestock, pets, and even humans. They are very destructive to agricultural crops, which could have significant economic implications for Virginia. Feral hogs have been ranked by many conservation organizations as the most significant threat to native wildlife and their habitats in the United States. The DGIF does not intend to manage feral hogs like traditionally-managed deer, turkey, or bear populations. We do not intend to keep them around, but instead the ultimate goal of the DGIF is to eradicate feral hogs from Virginia’s landscape.
Where can I hunt feral hogs?
Right now, the feral hog population in Virginia is still fairly low, therefore feral hog hunting opportunities can be difficult to come by. There are a few isolated populations that occur in relatively high abundance; however, most of these populations exist on private land. Because of this, the DGIF will not release the locations of these populations due to privacy concerns. If landowners in these impacted areas are interested in receiving help from people eager to hunt, they sometimes advertise locally for hunters. Most landowners give hunting permission to people they know and trust, so your best bet for finding a place to hunt hogs is either go to another southern state or befriend a landowner in the impacted area. The DGIF does not take names or contact information of hog hunters eager to provide assistance to landowners, nor does it facilitate anyone in finding places to hunt feral hogs on private land. Please do not ask staff to help you find places to hunt hogs.
If feral hogs are such a problem then why is the DGIF not doing more to encourage hunting of them?
The recreational hunting of feral hogs does not control populations, just like hunting does not effectively control coyote populations. It is estimated that 70% of a feral hog population must be harvested every year to continue reducing the population size. In wild, free-roaming populations of feral hogs, achieving this goal is virtually impossible. Additionally, hunting pressure on feral hogs often pushes them to other properties and educates them, making harvest success even lower. Even successful hunting tactics can make a feral hog population that much harder to control. The best way to control for feral hogs is through controlled trapping operations. For more information on this please see our other feral hog informational links on our webpage: Click here for more information.
Why are feral hogs becoming more of a problem in Virginia?
Hogs are not migratory animals, and farmers are not calling to notify us that their farmed hogs got loose where new populations of feral hogs have been discovered. We have to suspect that there have been and currently are people moving feral hogs to new areas where feral hogs didn’t exist previously and releasing them for sporting (hunting) purposes. Unfortunately, the same trend is playing out in other states as well. Biologists and researchers have referred to it as “the pig bomb,” describing the rapid and vast range expansion of feral hogs in the southeastern U.S. since the 1980s that cannot be explained by natural means or hog biology. Although proof is limited, biologists know that feral hogs are showing up in new places and they must be getting human help to get there. Moving feral hogs and releasing them to the wild in Virginia is illegal, according to the Code of Virginia (§29.1-521) and regulations 4VAC15-30-20 and 4VAC15-30-40. Feral hog hunting is what is feeding the growing feral hog problem, even if hunters have good intentions and desire to help control populations in the name of conservation. It is a supply and demand system. Interest in hog hunting creates more hogs. If nobody enjoyed hunting them, we wouldn’t have the growing problem we have today.
We appreciate your interest and willingness to explore the implications that feral hogs pose to our valuable natural resources in Virginia!