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Feral swine. Invasive hogs. Wild boars. Whatever you call them, wild pigs are a problem for farms, forests, grasslands, and the climate.

“They can live in a lot of different ecosystems and habitats and climate conditions. And they can consume almost anything in their path,” says Christopher O’Bryan, a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Queensland in Australia.

He says wild pigs feed in groups called mobs and can quickly ruin large areas of land.

“They use their tough snouts to uproot the soil, to turn over the soil,” he says. “And, of course, soil contains carbon. It’s one of the largest carbon pools on Earth.”

When soil is churned up and exposed to the air, it releases some of that stored carbon as CO2.

O’Bryan’s team estimates that, globally, wild pigs damage about 14,000 square miles of soil outside of their native range each year. That’s an area larger than Massachusetts and Connecticut combined.

Collectively, all of that churned up land could be emitting more carbon pollution each year than a million cars.

It’s one more reason to control the population of these invasive pigs.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media