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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    • Yeah that takes a lot of the fun out of it. I wonder if we’re beginning to witness the start of a Malthusian catastrophe on the wild hogs. You figure, the population is growing at an exponential rate, however, once a population of any species gets insanely large, it’s actually at risk for an implosion due to disease, as such a high population circulates weaker immune system traits and unfavorable genetics. It also leads to scarcity of food which helps the diseases spread. Humanity is due for one of these by they way, towards the latter half of this century.

  1. I don’t miss begging off when people as me if I want any venison from their hunt. CWD was starting to show up where i used to live and I’m just never gonna be that hungry…

    • Just remember that the CDC and State health departments are filled with radical leftist anti-gun and anti-hunter types. They have made it a mission to make hunting super dangerous in the eyes of the public. Fish like trout have prion disease. Migratory birds and fishes are loaded with cancer causing pesticdes and chemicals from your local golf course and farmland spraying. Varmints like woodchucks, squirrels and paraire dogs carry a dozen unimaginable diseases. Oh…and btw…cooking stuff in iron pots or aluminum will kill you. And BBQing will give you cancer. Bottled water has micro plastics. And the air in your house is so deadly you need a special mask. If its an older home the paint has lead in it that will reach out and kill you in the middle of the night. And don’t drink no coffee or eat eggs.

  2. I must have slept through microbiology. When they mentioned brucella, I thought it was Kaitlyn’s first choice. Ba-dump-tish! Ill he here all week, don’t forget to tip your server!

  3. Hmm. I doubt the hogs will make it across the California desert to the coast. Even Arizonan javelinas don’t make it out this way. Nothing much for them to survive on.

      • Aaaand in swoops Dan with the Pigpocolypse map for the win!

        Too bad the pigs don’t get the “spontaneous combustion” disease….

        I can’t help but think of my neighbor that went all the way down to Texas, shot a hog and brought back 50lbs of meat. Meat he couldn’t make edible no matter what he tried. Meh.

        • As long as people don’t start screaming ‘buh muh deer, buh muh game animals are all that matter!’, its all good.

          I think my neighbors killed all of the feral hogs in the immediate area, though they attracted them in the first place by setting up automatic deer feeders. Its a bit of a dick move when your neighbors are in agriculture. Once their hamster wheels got a good spin and they figured out how stupid that was to do, it stopped pretty fast. I need to make the rounds through their land again and see if there is any new rooting and torn up ground, its only a matter of time before more show up.

          The meat isn’t what I call edible and usually the carcasses end up being coyote food when people hunt *cough* trap and cull them. Then again, a slow cooker and the right application of spices and marinades can make almost anything edible. . . except maybe buzzard, buzzard is just compost.

          But yeah, if the maps are anything to go by, pigocolypse is pretty accurate. No matter how many are killed and trapped each year, they keep spreading and increasing in population. People selling ‘hog hunts’ isn’t helping the issue because more hogs means more money to them.

          Hogs do get spontaneous combustion disease aka rapid deconstruction, its just a matter of applying the right caliber. I imagine 50BMG hollow points would make a mess, as would smooth bore cannons, tannerite, etc.

        • Set up a feed station and put a couple 5 gal buckets of tannerite in the area. As porkers mill around and get into blast range have a couple shooters detonate the buckets. Spontaneous combustion of said pigs that kills, cleans, and cooks all at the same time. Wonder how many you’d take out. Bacon IED.

      • Thanks Dan. However, I’ve lived in SoCal for half a century, and not only have I never seen or heard of any hogs here, I’ve never heard any mention of them from anyone I know. Over my whole lifetime. That doesn’t mean they aren’t here somewhere, but I certainly don’t trust that map that shows SoCal as being part of the most saturated hog areas. In fact, scroll down to the comments on that page and others don’t buy it, either. The Eastern California desert is a formidable natural barrier.

        Hogs are not a problem here. My guess is that if there are any, our coyote population keeps them under control.

    • Lots of feral hogs in Mendicino and Humboldt. They might have escaped from CA missions or ranches and not needed to trek from TX.

    • I’ve seen hogs near the coast up here in norcal. And I’m tired of the landowners bitching about the hog damage and then wanting to charge for the right to hunt them. And the last time I checked the state was collecting a 22 dollar tag for every hog killed. I only fell for that bs once. Let the porkers rule supreme.

      • I agree, i’m not about to pay big money to help rid someone of a problem they have. It’s a lot of work, i’ve got the expensive equipment and travel costs, and then there is the matter of what to do with the pigs, there is only so much i’m willing to gut, carry out, process and store in my fridge.

        If deer were an invasive problem i’d be more inclined. I hunted a farm for a friend for years before he died. It was close, didn’t cost me anything, and i only had to clean up after the deer. Woodchucks were left so the buzzards could eat too.

  4. In Australia feral pigs can also carry Q Fever which gives symptoms like severe pneumonia and occasional death plus some very nasty parasitic worms. In New Zealand there is a chance of tuberculosis. For pigs two pairs of gloves are your friends.

    Deer here and NZ are pretty safe but I still use gloves when processing.

  5. You probably have a better chance at catching something from a grocery store shopping cart. Wear gloves, clean your tools, cook the meat thoroughly, you’ll be fine.

  6. According to wikipedia, ~120 cases per year of brucellosis. Given the number of people who hunt, anything more than a heads up that the disease exists is basically fear porn. Cook your meat well.

  7. … when you take that 400-pound hog or 14-point buck this fall …

    If I manage to shoot a 400-pound, 14-point buck this fall, I will probably be so ecstatic that I will not remember to wear gloves before field dressing.

    • Saw the nicest buck I’ve ever seen in CA this morning. In an area were deer hunting ain’t allowed, natch. I watched him through my monocular for a while. He was something to see.

      And then I got back to a dove shoot that was a total bust. Some days I should have stayed in bed.

      But that buck……

  8. I’m told jackrabbits in North America tend to be riddled with parasites and other nastiness, and not very desirable for the stew pot as a result.

  9. I’ve often wondered: how much concern there is with the animal’s fur/pelt when field dressing a deer or other critter? I’m thinking in terms of fleas and especially ticks.

  10. In Alabama we eat the small ones, take safari pics of the big ones. Also if you use one for coyote bait, cut em long with the cheap Walmart knife . Their hide is so tough the scavs can only open the anus or bullet entry/exit hole. The carcass gets devoured faster.

  11. I have a Service buddy who owns a couple of hundred acres outside of Brownwood,TX. We try to spend a week every year or two at his place (to reciprocate, I take him on an elk hunt every couple of years here in Montana…at least we can eat our critters up here!)

    We leave the rancid swine where they drop (unless they drop in one of the grazing pastures whereupon we hook them to the quad and drag them off to an isolated burn pile somewhere)…he really hates feral hogs. We’ve used 5.56, .308, 6.5 Grendel, .300 AAC Blackout, .44 Mag (rifle), 12 Ga. Last trip my favorite rifle for daytime ended up being my Dad’s old M1D Garand…went through a 500 round can of Privi 150 gr. FMJ.

    He doesn’t charge for hunting hogs…the caveat is that he only allows friends and family to hunt on his property (he is concerned that some city yahoo would be shooting his stock instead of feral swine).

    Here’s hoping our frigid northern winters keep them from infesting Montana fields and forests.

  12. Here in Washington State many wild rabbits have tapeworms. Coyote’s have ticks, as well as eastern Washington mule deer. Many deer living in the eastern Wa wheat fields are covered in ticks. Many of the ground hog colonies are actually fairly clean, I obviously don’t eat them but I worry about TB or other diseases.

  13. Feral hogs are on my list of critters to try hunting/eating. I hear the boars are too rank to eat? Is this true? I expect the wild forage/un-snipped life style to not be farm raised store bought pork taste, but there has to be a way to make it edible right?

  14. I would add to check the outside of the animal for signs of an arrow wound. Field dressing a deer and cutting yourself on a broadhead that was stuck inside it is not good.


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