Northwest states launch feral pig campaign

BOISE, Idaho -- Wildlife officials in three Northwest states are intensifying their battle against wild swine by launching a campaign urging hunters, anglers, hikers and others to report any feral pig sighting on a public hotline.

Washington, Idaho and Oregon on Monday unveiled "Squeal on Pigs," an effort to eradicate and curb the spread of feral pigs and get a better sense of their numbers.

The presence of the invasive and trouble-causing species across the three states varies.

Wildlife officials in Oregon estimate as many as 5,000 wild pigs are roaming the state, the majority of them migrating from northern California. There are no confirmed populations established in Washington, while wildlife officials in Idaho are keeping tabs on a small collection residing in the Bruneau Valley area in southwestern Idaho.

"Early detection and rapid response are key," said Amy Ferriter, invasive species coordinator in Idaho. "We recognize that eradicating small populations and minimizing the impacts of these invasive species is important to the economy and natural resources of the region."

Biologists describe feral pigs as any swine not confined in fences. Their spread is blamed by federal officials for an estimated $1.5 billion worth of damage to crops, livestock, wildlife and the ecosystem, and by some projections, more than 5 million wild pigs are rooting around in nearly every state. Feral pigs also are carriers of disease that poses a threat to livestock and humans.

The hairy, tusked pigs are native to Europe but have spread across the globe with the help of humans, in many cases hunters looking for a new challenge.