Numbers of feral or wild hogs continue to grow across the United States, raising concerns about the spread of disease to domestic hogs.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources reports that more than 50 wild hogs have been trapped or killed in southern Iowa since September 2003.

Last summer, a southeast Iowa pork producer became infected with brucellosis after a wild boar mingled with his pasture-raised hogs.

But so far, all trapped wild hogs have tested negative for brucellosis and pseudorabies – two diseases it took the state more than 20 years to eliminate and gain free status, says David Schmidt, assistant state veterinarian with the Iowa Department of Agriculture.

To protect that status, Schmidt says Iowa prohibits importation of feral hogs without prior approval from the state veterinarian’s office. Feral hogs can also do considerable damage to crops and vegetation.

A newly formed Iowa Feral Task Force wants to strengthen state law to control the wild hog population. Members include the Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Farm Bureau and state and federal agencies.

Goal is to impose stiffer penalties for people illegally importing or releasing feral hogs into the wild.

Since they are not a protected species, it is legal for landowners and hunters to shoot feral hogs.

The Agriculture Department has also provided funds to help control the wild hog population in Iowa by working with private landowners to help set traps.