Wade Seago of Samson, Alabama, knew something was amiss when his daughter started screaming and his schnauzer started barking. From a window he could see that his dog, Cruiser, had cornered a wild hog — a very, very big wild hog — about five yards from the family’s front porch.
The Seago place sprawls over about 100 rural acres on the southern edge of Alabama. It’s a town of about 2,000 souls; the nearest city is Dothan, about 45 miles to the east. If you’re curious about where the wild things are, Samson would be a good place to start. Deer, black bears, raccoons, wild turkeys, foxes, and bobcats abound. So do wild hogs.
In January 2017, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources reported that wild hogs had spread to all 67 counties of Alabama and were doing an estimated $100 million worth of damage to wilderness areas, private residences, and farms — corn and wheat, two staple crops, are near the top of the list of a wild hog’s favorite foods. Because the hogs are omnivores, because their rooting habits are destructive, and because their natural predators are long gone, wild hogs have become a serious problem. And it is only getting worse: the hogs breed year round; it’s not uncommon for a sow to produce two litters a year, with as many as a dozen piglets in each litter.
In response, it’s always open season on wild hogs in Alabama. Literally. According to Joe Songer of the Alabama Media Group, “On private land, hunters can legally hunt hogs every day of the year with no harvest restrictions.”
But let’s get back to the Seago place. A cornered wild hog is a dangerous animal. It could have killed Cruiser. So Wade Seago went for .38 caliber revolver, stepped out on his porch, and fired. It took three shots to take down the hog. Seago is a hunter who operates a taxidermy business, so he doesn’t suffer from urban Yankee squeamishness. The next day he took the hog to the Brooks Peanut Company where he weighed it on the drive-thru scale. The number was impressive: 820 pounds. He also measured the hog’s tushes, or tusks — they came in at six inches.
Here in Connecticut we don’t have wild hogs. Yet. Although there was a news report of hogs in North Grossvenordale, a town in the northeastern corner of the state, near the Massachusetts and Rhode Island borders. Some reports say that based on photos, these critters are domesticated pigs that have gone feral.
While we wait for wild hogs to make their way north, white-tailed deer remain Connecticut’s primary wildlife problem. The Wildlife Division of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection has characterized our deer population as “overabundant.” The current guesstimate is a statewide deer population of 100,000.
This “overabdundance” presents Connecticut residents with at least two significant problems. First, deer spread tick-borne Lyme disease to humans: since 1996, more than 29,000 cases have been diagnosed in Connecticut. Second, the deer have lost their fear of sharing a habitat with humans. As a result, they treat our gardens like open-air salad bars, which is extremely expensive for gardeners. My little town reports that deer cost the town and homeowners about $1.8 million of environmental and landscape damage annually.
Whether the issue is wild hogs or deer, the answer is the same: given the lack of four-legged predators in the state, we two-legged types will have to step in. In Connecticut there has been some talk about injecting the deer with a permanent sterility vaccine. But Alabamians take more direct approach.
“I didn’t think twice about taking down this hog,” Seago said. “I’d do it again tomorrow.” And in Alabama, he can.
Believe it or not, Seago did not set the record for a wild hog kill in Alabama. The “Hogzilla” record still belongs to Jamison Stone. In 2007, when he was 11 years old, Stone shot and killed a hog that measured nine feet, four inches long and weighed 1,051 pounds. As Fox News said at the time, “Think hams as big as car tires.”
Thomas J. Craughwell is the author of the newly released 101 Places to Pray Before You Die: A Roamin’ Catholic’s Guide.