Wild Hogs Rooting Up Longleaf
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Believe or not, wild pigs ate countless numbers of young longleaf
pine seedlingsearning them the nickname of the Piney-woods
Rooter. Pigs are not native to the United States but were introduced
by explorers and early settlers to the longleaf pine woods.
Non-native, plants and animals
can have devastating effects on native ecosystems. Without natural
predators to keep their numbers in check, the population of these
exotics" can quickly
explode and invade the habitat of native species. Three
of the more nasty invasive species
in the longleaf pine range include kudzu, red-imported fire ants,
and cogon grass.
Pigs were an important source of meat to early European explorers
and settlers to the longleaf pine woods. Without refrigeration,
bacon kept best on the hoof rather then butchered. In
addition, pigs needed little care and were often left to fend for
themselves by feeding in the woodseating anything from acorns
to small snakes. Its understandable that once out in the woods,
many of these pigs escaped captivity and became wild (known locally
as wild or feral hogs, piney-woods
rooter, woods hog, or
razorbacks). Because pigs have
few natural predators besides man, once they were introduced into
the wild, their population increased dramatically.
For longleaf pine trees, the role of introduced pigs had long-lasting
negative effects. One favorite food on which wild hogs fed voraciously
was the soft root system of young longleaf pine seedlings. Pigs
snouts rooted up longleaf pine seedlings and the succulent root
system was consumed. Reports have been made of one hog being able
to eat up to 400 longleaf pine seedlings per day.
In the wake of the hog population explosion
in the wild, young longleaf seedlings suffered. This was especially
significant in areas cutover by loggers. Without any young seedlings
left to replace the cutout trees, the landscape looked desolate.
Over time, foresters realized the connection between feral hogs
and forest regeneration. With hogs present in the forest, it could
not regenerate. In some areas, entire cohorts
of trees are missing due to consumption by woods hogs. In 1946,
forester William Wahlenburg wrote; the razorback hog is the
arch enemy of longleaf pine, particularly on the moister sites and
when other range food is scare. Hogs break off, girdle or uproot
seedlings to get the pungent phloem
near the root collar.
Razorback hogs also played an important role in the culture of
those living amongst the piney woods. Although, these undernourished
hogs were often riddled with a variety of different worms and parasites,
they could (in hard times) be slaughtered and used as a meal for
some family. A well-used southern colloquialism says that a person
who is scrawny looking is as skinny as a razorback hog.
Hog lard could be mixed with a various plants found in the woods
to treat illnesses. A tree that was rubbed on by a hog was thought
to cure neck aches when the afflicted individual rubbed their neck
on the same tree.
Key Words and Concepts (click
on for glossary definition): cohort,