At first glance they look like two cute little piglets, roaming free in an otherwise quiet residential area. But these little piggies will soon be up be no good if they’re not caught.
The petite porkers, one brown and one black, have been seen in the Second Street area of Gulfport since early November.
“We have gotten several, several reports of the pigs,” said Gulfport police PIO Sgt. Joshua Bromen. Both police and Animal Control officers have tried to catch them. They stick to the area of Second Street near the back of Salute restaurant and have been seen as far south as U.S. 90 and as far east as Hewes Avenue, Bromen said.
“We have an active warrant for them,” he said. “We are actively seeking these animals.”
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Some Second Street residents have seen them around a vacant lot on Nichols Court, where Live oaks have been dropping a wealth of acorns this fall. “Of the various species of plants consumed, mast (acorns, beechnuts, chestnuts, and hickory nuts) appears to be most important and preferred,” extension.org states in a report, “Food Habits of Feral Hogs.”
These aren’t precious potbelly pigs — i.e., pets. Kris Godwin, Mississippi wildlife services state director of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in Starkville, saw photos taken by a Second Street area resident and said she couldn’t positively state both are feral, but they likely are.
“It’s hard to tell. The color variation surprises me,” she said. “Usually there are more stripes at this age. I can see them more in the brown one, not so much in the black one.
“No, they’re not potbellies.”
Feral hogs, an invasive species, cannot be rehabilitated, she said.
“The huge concern is the damage they can do,” she said. “They can damage all kinds of stuff.” Damage includes rooting; digging up lawns and landscaping; and competition with other wildlife for food.
“Pigs are notorious” for digging, she said. “They’re looking for grubs and worms.”
“Feral swine cause major damage to property, agriculture (crops and livestock), native species and ecosystems, and cultural and historic resources,” states information from the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. “In fact, this invasive species costs the United States an estimated $1.5 billion each year in damages and control costs. Feral swine also threaten the health of people, wildlife, pets and other domestic animals. As feral swine populations continue to expand across the country, these damages, costs and risks will only keep rising.”
“They’re dangerous in the diseases they carry, and those are fairly numerous,” Godwin said. “The main concerns are pseudorabies (disease), which dogs can contract, and it can kill them, and swine brucellosis, which can be transferred to humans.”
The USDA said feral swine are known to carry at least 30 viral and bacterial diseases and nearly 40 parasites that can be transmitted to humans, pets, livestock and other wildlife.
They also can reproduce at atonishing rates, she said.
“They have an incredible growth rate. The sows can reproduce as early as at 6 months, and they can have litter sizes of from four to eight,” she said.
Though feral swine are not known to actively hunt pets, if confronted, they can be dangerous.
“If they get used to noise and people, and if a dog were to approach one, it could go after the dog,” Godwin said. “It will try to defend itself.”
She is curious why the two young pigs are traveling by themselves.
“Normally at that age, they would still be with their mama and the rest of the sounder,” she said, describing a family group. “It’s possible somebody dropped them off or they got separated some other way.”
The pigs might be cute now, but if they’re not rounded up soon, they could grow to a formidable size.
“This is a nuisance species,” she said.