Pork: the other fight meat

Feral Hog
PHOTO: stefpet, Flickr CC-BY-SA

Whenever I see classmates move to Florida or former co-workers relocated to Texas, they always go on about the weather. Isn’t it nice to be warm? And I suppose “warm” is better than 25 below, but at what cost?

American author Truman Capote once said, “It’s a scientific fact that if you stay in California you lose one point of your I.Q. every year.” The humorist Dave Barry later added, “But it’s worth it.” So it goes across all the hot states, where people lament 45 degree mornings and run their air conditioners like a ‘64 Mustang.

Living in the cold environs of northern Minnesota comes with underrated benefits. No hurricanes, for instance. Our spiders are too small to bite anyone. Snake-related deaths remain entirely avoidable. The old men talking politics on the corner always wear shirts. It’s the little things.

I could go on, but another benefit is that we do not contend with feral hogs. Or, at least, we didn’t until recently. Across much of the country, wild pigs that long ago escaped captivity roam the land. They root up fields and cause a general nuisance, sometimes turning violent. They’re the only farm animal that will happily eat farmers. The final season of the FX show “Atlanta” prominently featured a main character fending off a feral hog on his farm. 

Highly intelligent and possibly invincible super pigs are invading America,” reads the headline of a Feb. 21 story in Popular Mechanics. That got my attention.

Writer Tim Newcomb describes our predicament. Decades ago, Canadian farmers bred hybrids of wild boars and domestic pigs for cold weather hardiness. But about 20 years ago, a collapse in demand for these animals caused some farmers to turn them loose. Canada is a big country with ferocious grizzly bears, fearsome wolves and woeful winters, but these pigs survived them all. If anything, being free made them stronger.

These hogs scarf whole nests of goslings and ducklings and can even drop a deer on the run, according to Newcomb’s story. If anyone thought that native predators might enjoy a pork dinner to end all this, they can think again. Sometimes ham eats you. The other fight meat.

We might be tempted to describe this as a Canadian problem. Let them sort it out. But these “super pigs” are now crossing the international border. They’ve been spotted in North Dakota and are expected to arrive in Montana, Michigan and Minnesota soon. 

Now, many Americans own private armories and have been waiting for something like this to happen since they realized their fathers didn’t love them. These pigs will soon face their biggest challenge yet. But wild hogs aren’t easy to hunt. They’re as smart as they are destructive, as elusive as downwind turkeys.

Every once in while I think about the domesticated farm animals that comprise most of my meals. How did those dimwitted chickens, stoic moo-cows and cute pink pigs survive all those millennia before we started breeding them for their meat?

The answer is that chickens were dinosaurs, cows were wild oxen, and Babe the pig is descended from the sort of wild boar that isn’t hunted so much as fought. It is our species’ hubris that allows us to believe that these tables can’t turn again.

I don’t know how far the super pigs will penetrate into the heart of Minnesota. Will they stay out west or will the forest canopy of the boreal forest become attractive to them? Perhaps I’ll build stronger fencing for my garden in a few years or carry a rifle on long walks, the way my Alaskan friends do. 

I’m only reminded of the wisdom of Blue Oyster Cult when they sang, “Nature shows again and again how nature points out the folly of man. … Hogzilla!”

Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog MinnesotaBrown.com and co-hosts the podcast “Power in the Wilderness” on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Saturday, March 18, 2023 edition of the Mesabi Tribune.

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