By Ali Dunstan

The wild boars, feral pigs, Florida hogs; whatever you choose to call them, they are all the same: a non-native, invasive species of a flourishing wild pig.

Introduced in the 1500s, these animals can be found in every county in Florida and abundantly in and around Tampa Bay. An invasive species is one that was not found in an original ecosystem and in turn competes for resources with the native species; however, species like the boar are now naturalized and here to stay.

Wild pigs average around 110-130 pounds and can reach lengths of about 4-6 feet long. They range in color and pattern but are generally black, gray, brown and spotted and striped as babies. Their lifespan in the wild averages between four to 10 years.

Boars are omnivores and will eat almost any plant or small animal. This includes rooted plants, nuts, acorns, reptiles, amphibians, birds and their eggs, insects, worms and any smaller mammal. They are nocturnal and can be found actively foraging at dusk or dawn.

As with all pigs, wild boars are quick learners and highly intelligent mammals that live in families and have a complex social structure. They are very adaptable to live in any environment, making them the most widely distributed land mammal, second only to humans. Mothers are very attentive to their young and families can consist of groups of up to 100 pigs.

They are typically shy animals and have a natural fear of humans, causing them to generally flee from nearby people or encounters. In the United States, documented cases of pig attacks are exceedingly rare and often occur during hunts in an attempt to defend themselves or have occurred when a mother feels her piglets are threatened.

If you observe pigs from a safe distance and respect all wildlife, there is little to no risk of injury or disease. Remember to never approach or feed any wild animal. Wild boars are actively trapped and hunted in most of the state with permits and permission because of their fast-reproductive rate and environmental impact concerns. They are the second-most-hunted animal in Florida.

However, those who have known a pig know the ease to love the species. Their intelligence, compassion and curiosity make them very misunderstood creatures.

To paraphrase Winston Churchill: “Cats look down on you, dogs look up to you, but pigs look you in the eye as equals.”