A super-strong, highly intelligent new breed of wild hogs is causing billions of dollars worth of damage across America.
There is estimated to be around nine million feral hogs in the US. But they're reproducing so quickly, the authorities are having trouble keeping count.
Dale Nolte, manager of the National Feral Swine Damage Management Program at the Department of Agriculture, describes the problem as a "feral swine bomb".
The super-pigs are a hybrid of wild boar and domesticated pigs. They’re as strong and hardy as their wild boar ancestors, but they’ve inherited the extreme fertility farmers have bred into domestic swine.
They’re fertile all year round and can have up to 10 piglets in a litter.
"To go from a thousand to two thousand, it’s not a big deal," Nolte told The Atlantic.
"But if you’ve got a million, it doesn’t take long to get to four, then eight million."
These beasts are huge compared to ordinary hogs, standing over three feet high and weighing up to 250lb (nearly 18 stone).
"The problem with the hybrids is you get all of the massive benefits of all of that genetics," says biologist Ryan Brook, of the University of Saskatchewan. They’re fast, running at up to 30mph, with four wicked-looking tusks and a survival instinct that’s second to none.
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He added that the animals’ population is growing "out of control".
The US Department of Agriculture estimates the cost to farmers as being in the region of $2.5 billion annually.
While the main danger from these animals is the property damage, and cost to farmers, that they cause, these feral hogs can be deadly.
Christine Rollins, 59, was killed by a pack of wild hogs in Anahuac, east of Houston, outside a home where she worked as a caregiver to an elderly woman.
Chambers County Sheriff Brian Hawthorne told reporters: "In my 35 years I will tell you it's one of the worst things I've ever seen."
He added: "No doubt in my mind that it was multiple animals and we can tell that from the different sizes of the bites."
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