Wild pig populations are expanding across the US and recently pushed into the Appalachian Mountains. Most studies on pigs are concerned with their destructive behavior, but researchers are struggling to keep up with the range expansion. The fire science world has only caught a glimpse of what might happen if pigs move in after a controlled burn.
Researchers from the Savannah River Site (SRS) in Aiken, SC reported their observations after wild pigs ate more than 200 hardwood seedlings that were planted as a restoration effort. Before planting seedlings, the area was treated with an herbicide and controlled burns to remove brush and invasive plants. The authors pose a few theories on why the pigs were able to achieve such a high level of destruction. Their working theory is that the burn treatments created easy access to the seedlings. They note that the corridors created by workers on the site appeared to be preferred routes for the pigs.
The SRS researchers mention previous studies involving other species may provide useful tips for avoiding loss due to pigs. The pigs may prefer seedlings grown in a nursery to naturally regenerated trees and certain species are more tempting than others. Evidence also suggest that if you are planting after a controlled burn, allowing new growth on a burn site before planting can help camouflage your seedlings and may be their best bet for surviving pigs.