LAKE HAVASU CITY — Wildlife managers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture are keeping a close eye on the wild hog population in Arizona after seeing what the animals have done in other parts of the country.
"Just about anywhere swine show up, they're quite adaptable and they're omnivorous," said David Bergman, Arizona director for the USDA's Wildlife Services division. "They'll eat almost anything they come across."
Bergman said wild hogs root up wetlands, damage agriculture crops, threaten endangered species and spread diseases to commercial livestock and possibly even people.
Experts estimate there are between 500 and 1,000 wild hogs in Arizona. The feral animals have been spotted primarily in Cochise, Pima and Yavapai counties, and the biggest cluster is in the Lake Havasu National Wildlife Refuge in La Paz County.
"The last thing we want to see is a damaging invasive species establish itself here within Arizona," Bergman said.
The USDA said it is monitoring the feral swine and it is looking at both lethal and non-lethal methods of controlling the population.
The hogs have been around since Spanish explorers brought the animals to the New World in 1539. Two decades ago, somewhere between 500,000 and two million wild pigs roamed the United States in 17 states, but now the population numbers between two million and six million in 44 states.
Aside from Arizona, neighboring New Mexico and California also have established wild hog populations. Sizable populations also are starting to emerge in Colorado, Nevada and several other states.