feral pigs hogs brucellosis
Nick Leghorn for TTAG
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Deer, pigs, elk and other game animals can carry brucellosis. Know how to protect yourself this fall.

Hunting feral hogs is big business here in Texas and other states. The critters are widespread throughout the southeast and west coast. And they’re spreading.

A hog hunt, one in which you bag a single pig, can run you upwards of $500 (not including food, ammo, rifle…). The good news is that in Texas and many other states, hogs are considered invasive non-game animals that can be hunted year-round with no bag limit.

They’re enough of a problem in these parts that to help in the ongoing anti-swine efforts, you don’t even need a license to hunt them here in Texas any more.

Feral pigs, hogs hunting damage
Feral swine, which can carry brucella bacteria, cause hundreds of millions of dollars of damage annually in the United States (Bigstock)

Feral hogs are terrible, destructive animals that cause hundreds of millions of dollars of damage every year. So hunters reducing the population of these delicious creatures benefits everyone.

But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, feral hogs — like other free-ranging wild critters — can pose a risk to hunters above and beyond the regular traumatic variety.

Wild hogs can carry brucellosis, a nasty bacterial infection. From the CDC:

People can get the disease when they are in contact with infected animals or animal products contaminated with the bacteria.

If you are a hunter of particular wild animals, you may face an increased risk of brucellosis. This is because hunters are often exposed to the blood and organs of the animals they are hunting.

For those who slept through microbiology, brucella bacteria, which causes brucellosis, is a gram negative disease of the nervous system. That means traditional antibiotics are less effective against the disease. Symptoms of brucellosis include severe joint pain, the sweats, recurrent fevers, weight loss, and muscle pain in humans. If you contract it, the symptoms can persist throughout your life.

It can be treated with a lengthy course of modern antibiotics like Gentamicin, but it’s a bacterial disease that’s no fun at all while you have it.

While pigs are particularly nasty and some of the most frequent carriers, they aren’t the only critters that pose a brucellosis transmission risk. Besides feral swine, these game animals can carry it, too:

    • elk
    • bison
    • caribou
    • moose
    • deer

That’s right, even Bambi can infect you. But there are some basic safety tips you can use to avoid exposure.

How to Reduce the Risk of Brucellosis Exposure

According to the CDC, the risk of infection is highest when coming into direct contact with the blood and organs of wild animals. Transmission appears to be most prevalent during a blood-to-blood contact (handling bloody parts with an open cut), but anywhere wet on your body (eyes, mouth) can be a prime location for transmission.

With fall hunting season (finally!) approaching, how can hunters protect themselves from the bacterial threat?

Say it with me: body substance isolation. You need to avoid contact with blood, urine, feces and other bodily fluids when you’re out in the field.

field dress a deer hunting
While human brucellosis isn’t a significant public health problem, hunters who field dress wild game are at increased risk of zoonotic brucella bacteria exposure when handling animal tissues. (Bigstock)

This video we filmed a few years ago shows good field dressing body substance isolation practices. Note that while gutting this deer, Tyler is wearing both latex gloves and eye protection.

 

Field Dressing Safety Tips

As the CDC notes, here are some safety tips you should follow to avoid brucellosis exposure when hunting this fall:

  • Use clean, sharp knives for field dressing and butchering.
  • Wear eye protection and rubber or latex gloves (disposable or reusable) when handling carcasses.
  • Avoid direct (bare skin) contact with fluid or organs from the animal.
  • Avoid direct (bare skin) contact with hunting dogs that may have come into contact with hunted animals.
  • After butchering, burn or bury disposable gloves and parts of the carcass that will not be eaten.
  • Don’t feed dogs with raw meat or other parts of the carcass.
  • Wash hands as soon as possible with soap and warm water for 20 seconds or more. Dry hands with a clean cloth.
  • Clean all tools and reusable gloves with a disinfectant, like diluted bleach. (Follow the safety instructions on the product label).
  • Thoroughly cook meat from any animal that is known to be a possible carrier of brucellosis (see the list above).
  • Be aware that freezing, smoking, drying and pickling do not kill the bacteria that cause brucellosis.

Remember, when you take that 400-pound hog or 14-point buck this fall, keep basic body substance isolation practices in mind. It’s really pretty easy. Before you start to field dress or butcher, grab the latex or rubber gloves first.

 

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17 COMMENTS

    • I agree, this is great timing.

      Wild hogs have started showing up in my suburban neighborhood. My concerns are not only that people might be eating tainted meat but also the chance of people using their firearms in their backyards. It is not legal here to discharge a weapon within city limits. This is not wide open country with prairie land for miles. There are many homes with pretty small yards. People need to remember that they ARE responsible for EVERY bullet that leaves their gun. Do what you have to do to protect yourself but be responsible about it. These animals can attack and possibly kill.

      • Might be a good area to have a bow in your inventory. Here in the bay area we are very densely populated. One of our cities started having trouble with wild pigs. The city contracted a bow hunter to thin them out.

  1. A well written and timely article. In the back of my mind I knew this, but never worried about it. But then, I once had Lyme disease. I never worried about that either.

  2. Then there is this: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tularemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20378635

    Had never heard of it. One of my GS’s clients got it from cleaning rabbits. Was not easy to get rid of and well again. Steven Rinella, the Meat Eater was hunting something else in an episode but bagged a huge jack rabbit for the stew pot. Stuck it in his back pack and was immediately getting bitten by fleas. He brought up the prospect of getting tularemia but he said it was a rare occurrance. Evidently not that rare.

  3. Something I’m already doing. Found out several years ago that I am violently allergic to deer dander. It developed later for some reason, hunting with my dad as a teenager it was never a problem. After our dad died I took my younger brother on his first deer hunt when I was in my early or mid 20’s. He got a deer and after touching it I got hives all over, my eyes and face swelled up, and my throat constricted enough that I thought I would need to go to the ER. Was able to get some Benadryl in town and get it to go down. Went again last year, which was 6-7 years after the first incident. Wore gloves and was extremely careful to not touch my face. Still got hives on my arms from where they brushed against it’s fur.

  4. Good and informative. I try to always wear latex gloves while handling wild pigs and keep several sets or a box handy; never know when nature calls or multiple kills.

  5. Unless you’re going for the meat, hog hunting isn’t traditional hunting. A hog hunter is a pest exterminator just like the guy who gets rid of your termites, cockroaches, moles, etc. A good exterminator doesn’t just control the population; he eliminates it.

    The ideal rifle is suppressed, so the hogs don’t realize they are being shot at, is semiautomatic with a large magazine to maximize the kill rate, and can reach out as far as the hunter can shoot accurately. The goal is to kill as many as possible before they realize what’s happening. Given the damage feral hogs do, I’m fine with that kind of wholesale slaughter where killing is the only goal.

    The only thing I’m not sure about is what do do about all the hog corpses. If you’re good, there should be dozens of them littering the landscape and stinking it up as they decay. I can’t imagine trying to load them into a truck (a very big truck) and would have no idea where to take them for disposal.

  6. Down here in central – westish Texas , where I live, the hogs have smartened up. On our river bottom they have started to actually just sit and let you pass by. It used to be when you walked up on them they would sprint out in a line and you could light em up. Now you almost have to flush them out. One particular instance my wife and I were going to do some pistol shooting, I was bringing in the targets stands to set up and when I started in I heard some commotion, a few sows and piglets took out. I took chase, put one of the sows down when my wife started yelling that there was something in the bush next her. The boar had stayed back and hid. I’m just glad the kids weren’t with us.

    • Ahh ooh,
      That ain’t good.
      We used to tease a Red Durroc sow, she’d have ate us if she got the chance.
      An ambush from the brush would suck.

    • Ha, my reply got moderated and discarded. Weird all I did was talk about hunting. That’s the first time I’ve replied to Vallaha1776.
      Ever noticed sometimes when you go fishing you can smell fish but yah cant see um?

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