August 3, 2020

Working to Clear Illinois of Feral Swine

By Scott F. Beckerman, Brad Wilson

In late March 2020, Wildlife Services in Illinois conducted the first aerial control operations for feral swine in Illinois since 2014. Using an agency helicopter based in Oklahoma, a crew of two from Wildlife Services removed 25 feral swine (Sus scrofa) from private lands and the Lusk Creek Wilderness within the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois between the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. This effort to control invasive feral swine in Pope County was a collaborative effort between the Wildlife Services program, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

A black and white photo of two wild hogs foraging in a woodland at night.
Photo courtesy of the USDA Wildlife Services.

USFS personnel noted the presence of the feral swine in August 2019 and acted quickly to control the population. Feral swine can impact the forest and its protected natural resources as well as surrounding private agricultural lands. The Forest Service announced a one-week closure of the area for public safety. However, the aerial operation was completed in just two days, allowing for re-opening. The timing was selected to enable horseback riding that was set to open in the Shawnee National Forest on April 1 for the year, and to avoid impacting the wild turkey spring hunting seasons.

While a few feral swine are known still to occur within the region, Wildlife Services is continuing to monitor their movements and will remove them through trapping and shooting to achieve elimination of the population.

A group of feral hogs, adults and juveniles, rooting in a brushy area.
Photo courtesy of the USDA Wildlife Services.

This population in Pope County is the only currently known self-sustaining and expanding population of feral swine in Illinois. A collaboration of Wildlife Services, state agencies and private landowners have successfully removed four independent and self-sustaining populations of feral swine since 2011 (one in Fulton County, one in Fayette/Effingham/Clay counties, one in Marion County and one in Pike County).

Feral swine are an invasive species that compete with wildlife for food resources and prey on turkey and quail nests, reptiles, amphibians and other wildlife, including threatened and endangered species. They are a serious threat to forest and wildlife resources in Illinois through competition with native wildlife for food and cover, destruction of habitat, and destruction of sensitive natural areas, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Scott F. Beckerman is the Illinois State Director with USDA Wildlife Services. Brad Wilson is a Wildlife Biologist with USDA Wildlife Services.