Lots of people have unpleasant memories of hitting deer with their cars, but wild hogs can cause some serious fender damage, too.
The problem could also become very expensive as hogs continue to spread into new areas, often aided by their illegal release by groups that want to hunt them.
Jack Mayer, a Savannah River National Laboratory scientist and nationally known feral hog scholar, gathered some sobering data in a study of hog-vehicle accidents at Savannah River Site.
"Since the late 1980s, populations of introduced wild pigs have expanded their distribution from 19 up to at least 38 states," he wrote in a study he co-authored with fellow scientist Paul Johns.
Although the damage feral hogs inflict on native wildlife and the environment is well documented, Mayer wanted to get a better handle on the amount of property damage and personal injury they could inflict from motor vehicle accidents.
As part of his study, he used a special computer program (aptly named "PIGPOP") to analyze 179 pig crashes at SRS, where hogs were already thriving prior to the government's acquisition of the area in 1951.
Among the findings: males (57.9 percent) were more likely to be hit on highways, and the majority (76.2) were traveling alone at the time of the crash.
Of the 179 accidents studied, only 50 involved multiple animals and the largest number of pigs struck in a single accident was seven -- and involved a messy accident with a tractor-trailer rig.
Seasonal differences were minimal, with 30.2 percent occurring in summer, 26.2 percent in winter, 23.5 percent in fall and 20.1 percent in spring.
The highest number of accidents occurred on Wednesdays; the fewest, on Sundays; and the most severe accident at SRS resulted in the death of a site security officer whose vehicle struck a male boar that was lying in the road after being struck and killed by another vehicle.
Such deaths, Mayer wrote, are uncommon. However, it underscores the serious problem feral hogs can create as they spread to new areas -- especially areas where hunting pressure is insufficient to keep their numbers in control.
Wild hogs are large, dense animals with heavy body mass and a low center of gravity that can inflict horrendous damage to a speeding car. Mayer's study indicates the monetary cost of pig strikes likely will increase in the future, and it already may be quite high.
His projections indicate that there are 4 million hogs in the U.S. (a very conservative estimate) and that their annual mortality from car crashes is just 0.8 percent, causing an average repair bill of $1,346.
Thus, "the potential total annual cost of wild pig-vehicle collisions in the U.S. would be approximately $36 million," he wrote. "As populations of this invasive species continue to increase, this potential economic impact to the nation could become substantial."
ALCOHOL LIMITS: It might soon become easier for authorities to prosecute cases involving people boating or hunting while under the influence of alcohol.
Andy Johnson, a hunter safety instructor from Tallapoosa, Ga., noticed that boaters and hunters are allowed to have more alcohol in their system than drivers.
He suggested to Georgia's Department of Natural Resources that the discrepancy be corrected, and earlier this year, state Sen. Bill Heath (R-31) introduced Senate Bill 71, which -- if passed -- will do just that.
The idea, according to Johnson, is to bring laws that govern drinking while boating or hunting in line with those that govern drivers.
Currently, the blood alcohol level of a boater must be at least .10 before a charge can be issued. The new law would bring it down to .08 -- the same level as drivers must register to be charged with DUI. The same rule would apply to hunters.
ARCHERY HONORS : Congratulations are in order for Midland Valley High School's new FFA Archery Team, which recently qualified for the S.C. state archery tournament to be held March 27 in Columbia.
The 15-person team from grades nine through 12 shot against 28 teams and is ranked No. 3 behind Mid-Carolina and McBee, according to FFA advisor Jeremy Brooks.
Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119 or firstname.lastname@example.org.