Wisconsin hunters might want to start researching recipes for pork and venison: The state has invited deer hunters to shoot any wild pigs they happen to see while out in the woods.
With an estimated 640,000 hunters expected to be in the field during the nine-day deer season that starts Nov. 21, it could be an opportunity to thin the destructive herd.
Wild pigs have turned up in 39 Wisconsin counties in the past dozen years, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.
The biggest concentration is in Crawford County, where at least 275 hogs have been shot and an estimated 25 or 30 still roam.
Indiscriminate omnivores, they dig up crops, ruin landscapes and even kill livestock. They also carry diseases that threaten domestic swine.
Hunters need a small-game or conservation patron license to take feral pigs not on their own land, but there’s no limit on the number they can shoot.
Brad Koele, a DNR wildlife damage specialist, encourages anyone who bags a pig to contact the DNR so wildlife officials can collect samples for disease testing.
Koele cautions hunters to be sure their prey is wild, as they could be liable for damages if they shoot a domestic pig that has gotten loose. Feral pigs have longer tails and snouts, heavier coats and leaner bodies than domestic stock. Those in Wisconsin range from 15 to 250 pounds.
While he’s never tried one, Koele said he’s heard they are good to eat.
“They have a pretty good food supply,” he said. “They probably eat pretty well and taste just fine.”