As the gun control debate rages in the US in the wake of a weekend of devastating mass shootings, calls for an assault weapons ban have resurfaced. While this has led many Americans to cite their second amendment rights, one man in Arkansas has asked a simple question: “How do I kill the 30-50 feral hogs that run into my yard within 3-5 mins while my small kids play?”
It all began when Willam McNabb, who identifies as a libertarian, waded into a debate about assault weapons (high-powered rifles were reportedly used by the gunmen in both El Paso and Dayton).
His question swiftly went viral and has inspired countless memes. But if the image of 30-50 wild pigs roaming around a backyard seems surreal to you, it may be because you don’t live in a a rural part of southern America, where large groups of feral hogs are, according to one expert the Guardian spoke to, “actually a huge problem”.
This hasn’t stopped McNabb’s response from being widely mocked on Twitter due to the image it evokes, however.
The feral hogs have also been woven into already popular meme formats, and song lyrics:
Meanwhile, some people have just appreciated the brief moment of levity that the moment has provided:
However, while McNabb’s tweet has provided some well-needed levity, the reality is that large groups of feral hogs are a real problem across parts of the US.
Evan Wood, an editor for Missouri Life magazine who has covered hog problems in his state, told the Guardian: “They are actually a huge problem, both on private property and public lands. They live in groups (called sounders) of up to 60 hogs. They are very harmful for farmers because when they eat, they upturn the ground to get things out.”
According to estimates from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), feral hogs cause $1.5bn in damage nationwide every year. Meanwhile, the Missouri Department of Conservation has declared feral hogs “invasive pests that need to be eliminated from Missouri” that can “destroy a crop field in a single night”.
Does this mean Americans should have access to high-powered rifles to deal with the problem, as McNabb seems to suggest?
Wood says no. “If you go after them with a gun your chances of getting all of them at once are pretty much nil, even if there are only like 10 of them,” he says. “So the ones that survive often scatter, and because of how quickly they can breed, that creates more groups and impacts new land. Plus a lot of times they’ll end up coming back”
This is supported by conservation experts. “From what we’ve seen in Missouri and in other states, we know that hunting is not effective at eliminating feral hogs,” wrote Missouri’s Department of Conservation last year. “Here in Missouri, a shoot-on-sight strategy was encouraged for over 20 years. During that time, the feral hog population continued to grow.”