Have you seen this new meme that’s been making the rounds lately? I’ll confess to being rather confused when I first saw it popping up in my timeline. People have been making references to “30 to 50 feral hogs” and it’s really caught on. Turns out that it stems from (of all places) the ongoing arguments over gun control laws and a proposed ban on “assault rifles.” Somebody who owns an AR-15 apparently posed the question of how he would deal with that number of wild boar if they suddenly showed up in his yard and went after his kids. (WaPo)

How, exactly, did we get to a nationwide discussion and meme explosion about feral hogs and the oddly specific range of 30 to 50 of them?

On Sunday, in the wake of two mass shootings, musician Jason Isbell questioned the necessity of ordinary Americans to own an “assault weapon,” touching on the pedantic and intricate ways gun-rights advocates define their wares.

“Legit question for rural Americans,” responded William McNabb, a Twitter user whose bio says he lives in southern Arkansas. “How do I kill the 30-50 feral hogs that run into my yard within 3-5 mins while my small kids play?”

McNabb’s response, and his back-and-forth with Isbell, paralyzed social media with countless memes that poked fun at the idea of semiautomatic rifles as a vital tool in wild pig home defense.

The meme certainly did take off. Just this morning I began following a new Twitter account named We Rate Hogs. It’s obviously run by some liberal gun rights opponents, but it’s still pretty funny.

As the WaPo article (along with many other sources) goes on to point out, however, the subject of feral hogs is no laughing matter. The USDA has had a warning up on their website since 2014 with the rather humorous title, “We Can’t Barbecue Our Way Out: Why Feral Swine Management Requires a National Approach.”

Not everyone realizes it, but swine are omnivores. They can and will eat virtually anything from fruits and vegetables to wildlife and carrion. They carry a number of diseases that they can spread to domestic pig populations and even to humans in some cases. They are an invasive species that destroys crops and can wipe out native animal populations.

The adults are definitely dangerous and can be quite aggressive. While rare, there have been four documented cases of human beings being killed by wild boar, though this generally happened when the pig was being hunted or trapped and was wounded, turning on the human and killing them. There are more than 400 other non-fatal attacks documented.

These animals number over six million at this point and can be found in most of the country. Is an AR-15 the best way to take them out? Beats me, but I suppose it would be worth a try if you ran into a bunch of them unaware. Perhaps as many as 30 to 50 of them.