In the wake of this weekend’s mass shootings, a lot of reactions have been circulating the internet — including a defense of gun ownership involving a very specific number of a very specific animal. That particular herd? 30-50 feral hogs.
At first glance, it doesn’t make much sense. But this concept of “30-50 feral hogs” has gone viral after it was introduced via the following tweets.
Country singer Jason Isbell addressed the controversy surrounding assault weapons, announcing in an August 4 tweet, “You know what an assault weapon is, and you know you don’t need one.” Isbell, among many other celebrities, was expressing support for gun control, specifically a ban on semiautomatic assault rifles.
In response, Arkansas father William McNabb asked, “Legit question for rural Americans — How do I kill the 30-50 feral hogs that run into my yard within 3-5 mins while my small kids play?”
The strange question was meant to provide a reason why an assault rifle was necessary for McNabb and other rural families, but quickly gained attention as a ridiculously specific defense. Before the day was over, the phrase “30-50 feral hogs” was trending nationwide, and had racked up over 50,000 tweets in reaction. There are already dozens of popular hog memes, and even an interactive web game where players can defend cartoon children against the herd.
Most people were baffled by the image the tweet conjured — one lone hero defending his children against an army of wild pigs wielding an AR-15 — but oddly enough, McNabb did have a point.
Turns out, feral hogs are “one of the world’s worst invasive species,” wild pig expert John Mayer told Slate. He says the creatures are capable of “an amazing variety of damage” with a magnitude that’s “off the charts.”
Feral hogs aren’t native to the US — they were introduced by explorers in the 16th century, according to the Department of Agriculture. Their population stayed fairly stable until the 1950s, when game hunters imported the wild pigs to northern states to expand hunting opportunities. Because of this move, the US hog population went from two million to over six million by the year 2000, a crisis Mayer calls the “pig bomb.”
They’re making a lot of people laugh on the internet, but in real life, these hogs are no joke. They tear up farms, parks, and playgrounds, kill other wildlife, and carry diseases like swine flu and pseudorabies. They cause an estimated $2.5 billion in damage to agriculture every year, eating anything and everything possible, and are estimated to cause 10,000 vehicle collisions for every one million hogs.
A Texas agricultural website calls feral pigs “the most prolific large mammal on the face of the Earth — and can even be dangerous.” Mayer attests that between 2007 and 2017, there were fewer than 70 fatal shark attacks worldwide, but 84 fatal pig attacks.
That brings us back to Mr. McNabb — does he really need an assault rifle to defend his kids against dozens of feral hogs within minutes? According to Mayer, a group of 30 to 50 hogs storming a yard at once is possible, though most herds are smaller.
Mayer says that though you can hire a contractor to control a herd near you with a semiautomatic weapon, the average homeowner should not be using “assault weapons” on pigs. It also turns out, McNabb doesn’t own an assault weapon himself. He fights the hogs by setting his dogs on them, laying traps, and using a small hunting rifle. He’s previously used this gun to shoot and kill three hogs, successfully getting his kids inside unharmed.
But McNabb stands by his tweet. He says his rifle isn’t as effective as the semi-automatic weapons his neighbors have when it comes to the feral hogs. The US Department of Agriculture disagrees, claiming that shooting can work for a few individual swine, but can disrupt large groups (like 30-50), increasing potential damage.
Essentially, you can shoot three to five feral hogs if you want to — it’s legal — but if there’s 30 to 50 coming your way, call a professional trapper or local wildlife control.