Wild hogs are opportunistic omnivores. It means that they eat anything edible they can find. Their diet is pretty wide, similar to domesticated pigs, although wild boar’s menu is a little bit less sophisticated and much more weather dependent.
What Makes Up a Wild Hogs Diet?
Although there seems to be nothing in particular a wild hog won’t eat, their diet mostly depends on what they can find in their habitat at a given time.
The majority of wild boars’ diet is plant-based (between 57 – 100% depending on the season).
The main categories include:
It would surprise many people to know that wild hogs are somewhat fussy eaters, picking and choosing their favorite plants and even parts of them. However, it is all season and weather dependent.
Wild boars’ all-time favorite food seems to be masts, like beechnuts, chestnuts, acorns, hickory nuts, and various wild fruits.
These are high in energy, sugars, and starches, are easy to digest, available most of the year, from summer to mid-winter, and, if available, often found in abundance.
Out of all the native mats in their habitats, acorns seem to be the most preferred, at times comprising almost 90% of wild boars’ diet.
Wild hogs’ diet turns more towards underground herbaceous materials at higher altitudes and colder seasons.
The higher above the sea level they live, the more roots, tubers, and bulbs they consume – up to 71 %. They prefer fleshy roots to woody ones.
Rooting for food is also often observed in winter months when food is scarce above ground. Hogs would crowd pastures and open meadows during those times, often uprooting the earth as deep as 3 feet.
Wild boars can also consume large quantities of agricultural plants if available.
As crops usually occur in high concentration, it is sometimes the preferred food source for hogs, although only if there are not enough of their natural food sources available.
The crops consumed by hogs include:
- grains – wheat, barley, rye, oats, corn, sorghum, millet
- vegetables – potatoes, turnips, beet, cabbage, beans, squash, peas
- fruits – grapes, apples, watermelons, blueberries, pumpkins
- other crops – linseed, peanuts, sunflowers, clover, cotton, almonds, pecans, sugar cane
Out of the readily available agricultural plants, hogs usually chose ones with the highest protein content.
It is worth noting that the presence of hogs in the forests negatively impacts conifer and deciduous trees. They can dig up and chew large quantities of protein-packed tree plantings during late winter and spring.
They are also able to decimate any food plot left for deer and other game animals and will eat any supplements left for deer, like minerals and grain.
Wild boars can consume animal material as well, vertebrates and invertebrates alike. They can consume them on a year-round basis if available.
They eat anything from:
- birds and their eggs,
The animal matter can make up to 15% of wild boars’ diet, and in that menu, invertebrates are more prevalent than vertebrates – especially insects, followed closely by annelids and crustaceans.
In the absence of insects, earthworms (annelids) take up most animal-based food sources for wild hogs. They consume them year-round, with seasonal variation – bigger numbers consumed in winter and wet days.
Wild hogs will also catch small ground rodents, squirrels, and small birds (including their whole nests with eggs).
Although they don’t make up a big part of hogs’ diet, along with amphibians and reptiles, they are, in most cases, opportunistic food sources.
Wild boars won’t pass the opportunity to devour a carcass of another mammal if they happen to find one.
In fact, several study cases show that carrion can make up to 12.4% of wild boars’ diet, and although they don’t purposely wade in water in pursuit of fish, they often consume fish carcasses washed up on the shore and in dried ponds and drainage channels.
Fungi make up about 2% of wild boars’ diet. The amount largely depends on the availability of other food sources. The biggest fungi consumption amount and frequency can be observed in the summer and winter months.
A curious source of food for wild hogs is algae in the form of brown and green seaweeds.
Wild boars living in the coastal areas sometimes wander to the beach, searching for an easy meal. Seaweed can comprise up to 1.5% of their diet.
Hogs can also consume garbage and refuse if found. They can break into rubbish bins and consume any leftovers left outside by people. That includes discarded food waste but also plastic and rubber.
It is not an important part of their diet but rather another opportunistic item on their menu list.
Hogs can also consume lichen, bark, pieces of wood, and peat, although those are mostly ingested while foraging for other food items.[wd_leadmagnet type=”dressing”]
Are Wild Boars Predators?
Wild boars are not considered predators, as they don’t rely on hunting to feed themselves and don’t actively pursue other animals. They can be considered scavengers because they are likely to consume any dead animal they find.
Although they normally don’t pursue their prey actively, wild hogs can hunt for food if necessary. They usually manage to kill rodents, reptiles, amphibians, and small birds.
Wild boars are fast and equipped with sharp teeth and tusks, but even they don’t chase their prey. The “hunt” usually happens when they stumble upon small animals while foraging for other food.
However, there are instances where an opportunity presents itself for hogs to actively hunt other species, like purposely waiting outside of a ground squirrel’s burrow or grazing beside a wild turkey and end up killing and eating it if it comes too close.
There are instances of wild boars breaking into a livestock pen and, as a result, eating livestock’s food and killing and partially eating lambs, goat kids, calves, and some exotic game species.
Hogs were also observed killing deer fawns.
Although hogs kill other animals for food, those killings are often a result of an opportunity – a good meal with minimal effort.
How Much Food Do Wild Boars Eat?
Wild boars are forever foraging for food. They can eat as much as 3-5% of their body mass every day. A full stomach of an adult hog can weigh around 6.6 lbs.
Wild boars usually consume the biggest amount of food during morning hours, just before daybreak.
It is worth noting that although most of the hog’s diet comprises plant matter, an adult male wild boar can eat more meat than younger animals or even females.
It’s due to its dominance over the found carrion. It also tends to roam more in search of food, and that means more opportunities to find and consume meat.
Wild hogs are opportunistic feeders and can eat practically anything that can pass as edible, from the smallest plant matter like seeds to a dead moose.
Although they are not predators, they can hunt for other animals – however, the majority of their diet is plant-based.
A big herd of hogs can cause a lot of damage to crops, livestock, and young forests. The wide range of foods they consume and the type of foraging they execute can also negatively impact many native species of flora and fauna.