The proliferation of feral hogs in Louisiana has been well documented as have many of the negative impacts on wildlife.
But a research project by the LSU Agricultural Center’s School of Renewable Natural Resources in conjunction with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries shows that feral hogs, recorded in all 64 parishes, are having a similarly detrimental effect on water quality on some water bodies in central Louisiana between Alexandria and Natchitoches.
The research revealed pathogens were extensive in sampled water bodies on private lands adjacent to Kisatchie National Forest and were regularly associated with feral hogs. The water at all 40 sites in the study contained one or more pathogens that were potentially unsafe for human or wildlife contact.
Of particular concern, of the 40 sites sampled, DNA fingerprinting positively matched 22 sites with high levels of E. coli in the water with fecal samples obtained from feral hogs both within and outside the areas sampled.
Additionally, salmonella was found at 38 of 40 sites. Both pathogens are considered harmful to humans and wildlife. Associations were also noted between feral hog presence, heterotrophic bacteria counts (a measure of overall bacteria amount in the water) and microbes that could cause leptospirosis, yersinosis and Klebsiella pneumonia.
For wildlife, the diseases could have devastating effects. Leptospira spp. can cause kidney damage and loss of renal function in squirrels, raccoons and white-tailed deer. Leptospira has caused abortions in white-tailed deer and other mammals.
Salmonella spp. can infect wild turkeys and other wild birds resulting in liver damage, severe diarrhea and death. Klebsiella spp. can cause sinusitis and pneumonia in wild birds and turkeys. Yersinia spp. can cause gastroenteritis in white-tailed deer and raccoons, and severe overwinter mortality has been observed in wild migratory birds.
Water quality in this region has suffered greatly on privately and publicly owned land as the feral hog population has continued to expand. Feral hogs are known carriers of over 30 bacterial and viral diseases, including many pathogens than can be spread through contact with water.
The impact to humans and wildlife in the region is particular cause for concern. Many recreational activities in these areas, including swimming, kayaking and hunting, could put humans in direct contact with these pathogens. Humans can become gravely ill from some of these diseases if misdiagnosed or untreated.
To see the complete report go online to http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/document/40395-feral-hog-water-quality-report/detection_of_feral_hog_impacts_to_water_quality_wildlife.pdf