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In Pennsylvania, the hunting of wild hogs is unregulated; all you need is a hunting license. This means wild hogs can be taken 365 days a year and there is no bag limit. Though initially confined to game preserves, an estimated population of 3,000 feral swine reside in at least 10 counties in the Keystone state. The Pennsylvania State Game Commission (PGC) believes that these wild populations of hogs escaped or were released from hunting preserves in Pennsylvania and Maryland and have the potential to become permanently established in the state. Accordingly, Pennsylvania’s current government position on wild hogs is eradication.
Wild hogs, also known as wild or Russian boars, feral swine or pigs and colloquially as razorbacks, are the wild ancestors of domestic pigs, an animal with which it can breed. Hybrid species are more appropriately called “feral swine” though these swine will quickly express the physical attributes of wild hogs and become indistinguishable from true wild hogs within a generation. Note that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court determined that the animals should be referred to as “wild boars."
Wild hogs are viewed as one of the most serious invasive species in North America, impacting both natural resources and human quality of life. The major concerns are habitat destruction and disease. They destroy the habitats and eradicate the food supply for other animals, including turkey, grouse and deer. Wild hogs carry many diseases that easily spread to domesticated swine and several that are transmittable to humans. Pennsylvania, like 24 other states, fear that the increasing feral swine population will lead to significant environmental degradation in 10 to 20 years.
As of 2007, U.S. Department of Agriculture acknowledges that “feral swine” have established breeding populations in five counties in Pennsylvania: Bedford, Bradford, Butler, Cambria and Indiana. Breeding populations are suspected in Crawford and Tioga counties, while the status of feral swine in Erie, Somerset and Wyoming counties remains unclear. There are also significant populations of feral swine in game preserves across the state, most of which cater to hunters.
In the decision of Johnna Seeton vs. Commonwealth, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court vested responsibility for feral swine with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, though the PGC has not instituted regulations or a season for feral swine, citing the Supreme Court’s statement that “the parties agree that the wild boar…are neither fur bearers nor game animals.” This distinction indicates that even though the courts assigned the responsibility for the animal to the PGC, they are not required to treat it as a game animal.
Because wild hogs are unregulated, it is debatable whether or not hunting wild hogs violates the Pennsylvania state bans on baiting, night hunting and Sunday hunting. For example, though the 2010 to 2011 game law states "It is unlawful to hunt wildlife, except foxes, crows and coyotes, on Sundays" it is unclear from the Supreme Court's decision whether they in fact define wild hogs as "wildlife." In light of this legal murkiness, hunters should read the annual Pennsylvania Trapping and Hunting Digest fully and exercise caution and sound judgment when they plan a hog hunt. Also remember that laws regarding hunting safety, firearm safety and posted land are in no way affected by the unregulated status of hunting wild boars. If you do kill a wild boar, you must report it to the Game Commission Region Office that serves the county where the killing occurred. The agency will want access to the carcass to test for disease.
Though hunting with bows, knives and even spears is a common practice in the southern United States, the most practical weapon with which to hunt wild hogs is an appropriately powered firearm. The Boar Hunting Society's Web site recommends a 30-caliber or greater hunting rifle loaded with bullets designed for deep penetration. Wild hogs are particularly resilient animals and can be dangerous when they are cornered and wounded. Accordingly, a high caliber rifle is both the safest and most humane choice when hunting wild hogs.
Aaron Samsel is the founding editor of Guns.com. He has been writing professionally since 2008.