Fairfield County, SC (WLTX) -- Wild hogs are in every county of South Carolina. The pigs are a big problem and they are getting worse in the Palmetto State.
"It's just something we've always liked, we've always done. It kind of runs in the family," said Gene Belk. Belk has been around farming his whole life, but for the past 10 years he has been fighting a growing problem, feral hogs.
Belk said, "They'll tear up anything you've got. They'll try to climb over the pen, they'll try to bite you, fight you. They are pretty rough."
Speaking from his property near Winnsboro, Belk said, "They are really bad at times. They come and go. They will be here for a month, two months, three months and then they will disappear. We try to get out all of them that we can, but we are never going to get them all."
The number of hogs are increasing all over the state, according to a 2016 Clemson University study, an estimated 130,000 to 140,000 wild hogs live in South Carolina. They caused $115 million in damage to agriculture, livestock and to timber.
Clemson assistant professor Shari Rodriquez said, "They are ecological zombies. They eat everything. They eat deer fawn. They uproot endangered salamanders. They eat ground-nesting birds and their eggs. They really eat anything."
Belk has seen the destruction firsthand. He said, "They'll destroy the field, they'll have the field so rooted up, we won't be able to drive the tractors on it. They will mess up the hay fields, mess up the pasture. We'll have to plow it up and replant."
The hogs leave signs that are unique and identifiable, making it easy to determine whether wild pigs are in the area. The hogs are usually nocturnal and they can reproduce rapidly.
According to Belk, "I've got one group of 14 on this place. They have pigs every 113 days." Which makes the problem even harder to handle once they have found a place to feed, but Belk has this advice if you have a pig problem. He said, "Shoot them or trap them, get them off your property."
According to South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, adult pigs usually range from 75 to 250 pounds. They also can carry a number of diseases that can affect livestock, wildlife and even humans.