Don't look so surprised. I've actually been trying to think of a way to get this issue on the blog all summer. Most of my summer was spent with my family in rural East Texas, and the feral hog problem was a very commonly discussed issue. It's hard to describe how pressing this problem is, but to put it in perspective, it was discussed slightly less than gas prices and probably more often than the debt ceiling.

Feral hogs have spread throughout the Southeast, and the problems they cause are manifold. They mostly eat tubers that they dig out of the ground, and the process of digging (called "rooting") tears up fields and pastures that can be used for agriculture or wildlife. Hogs also destroy fences and occasionally kill pets. Seriously.

If this issue is shocking to you, it shows just how far national concerns are removed from local concerns. This problem matters quite a lot to farmers and ranchers who have to rebuild fences (not a fun task), relocate livestock, or lose pets or wildlife to the hogs. And if you needed further proof, today the hog problem made it into the New York Times:

There are an estimated four million to five million feral hogs in the United States — mostly in California, Hawaii (where they threaten Ms. Barr’s macadamia trees) and the Gulf Coast, where Mr. Perry, the Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate, has signed legislation to allow any Texan with a hunting license to rent a seat on a helicopter and blast away at pigs, starting Thursday.

Shooting hogs from a helicopter, besides seeming like an awful lot of fun, is probably one of the few effective ways to traverse the large (and often thickly forested) areas that the hogs occupy. Here's a video:

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If this seems cruel or unusual, keep in mind that these hogs can cause an estimated $1400 per hog per year in damage to land and crops. In Shelby County, Texas, the government was paying hunters to bring in dead hogs this summer. Both of these approaches seem more plausible than what the Times recommends:

Ethical hunters, and their skills not with guns but with words, can help. They must spread the word — through outdoor magazines and in conversations at hunt clubs and gun shops — that helping hogs expand their range is bad for our parks, our farmers and our wildlife.

Really? It is not shocking that the hogs are bad news. Everyone from East Texas to North Carolina is well aware of the problem. Words will not keep the hogs from reproducing at an extremely rapid rate. The only conversation that's going to help is, "hey Bubba, do you have an extra seat in that helicopter?"