A law passed by the N.C .General Assembly earlier this year changed the "wild boar" classification for the former big-game animal to "feral swine" in the state's six westernmost counties, ending that area's traditional boar season. The change took place Oct. 1.

To hunt "feral swine" hunters must have a valid hunting license and wear hunter orange during appropriate seasons.

The law prohibits transporting live hogs unless the animals have identification approved by the state veterinarian. The law also prohibits transporting swine are subject to a civil penalty up to $5,000 per animal.

The law was enacted in part to address the proliferation of feral swine across North Carolina. Feral swine pose threats to commercial hog-farming operations and native wildlife through disease transmission and habitat destruction.

Brucellosis is a swine disease that can infect people if they come in contact - through their eyes, nose, mouth or a skin cut - with infected blood, fluid or tissues with an infected wild pig. People can also become sick through eating improperly cooked or handled swine meat.

Currently, surveillance testing for brucellosis in feral swine in North Carolina is very limited. However, in areas where surveillance has occurred, rates of brucellosis have been increasing over the past three years.

For more information about brucellosis and other swine diseases, the brochure "Wild Hog Hunting, Staying Healthy on Your Hunt" can be downloaded from www.cdc.gov/Features/HunterSafety/Brucellosis_and_Hog.Hunters_508.pdf. You can also download the brochure "Ferald/Wild Pigs: Potential Problems for Farmers and Hunters" by visiting the U.S. Department of Agriculture's website www.aphis.usda.gov/publications/wildlife_damage/content/printable_version/feral%20pigs.pdf.

To participate in the swine disease testing program, call the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Veterinary Division at 919-733-7601.