As unlikely as it sounds, feral hogs have become a trending topic online in relation to the debate about gun control in the United States following two mass shootings in Texas and Ohio that left 31 people dead over the weekend.

That’s right, feral hogs. And more specifically, 30 to 50 of them.

It all started on Sunday, when an Arkansas father chimed in on a conversation about assault weapons on Twitter.

William McNabb, a self-described Libertarian from El Dorado, Ark., responded to American musician Jason Isbell’s declaration that no one needs an assault rifle.

“Legit question for rural Americans - How do I kill the 30-50 feral hogs that run into my yard within 3-5 mins while my small kids play?” McNabb asked.

Perhaps it was the large size of the group of invading hogs or the precise number of minutes it takes for them to run into the yard or the suggestion that rural Americans need assault rifles to protect themselves from this problem, but, regardless of the reason, McNabb’s tweet quickly went viral with thousands of Twitter users mocking the man’s concerns.

By Tuesday morning, the hashtag #feralhogs was trending on Twitter with endless memes poking fun at the threat of “30-50 feral hogs” in “3-5 minutes” flooding the social media platform.

Despite the incredulous reaction online, McNabb’s worry about feral hogs is actually justified.

According to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, feral hogs are an “invasive species, public nuisance, and a threat” to the state. That’s because the animals are known to destroy farmland and habitats by “rooting and wallowing,” leading to erosion into streams and other water sources. The hogs also compete for food resources, eat nesting birds, fawns, and young livestock, and carry diseases and parasites.

The government agency said overpopulating feral hogs are responsible for an estimated US$19 million in row crop damage in the state and $1.5 billion in damages nationwide on an annual basis.

“Agriculture is our state’s largest industry, and feral hogs and the damage that they cause pose an increasing threat to all aspects of our state’s agriculture industry and our ability to make a living,” Wes Ward, Arkansas’s secretary of agriculture, said in a statement in April.

According to the University of Arkansas’ Division of Agriculture, feral hogs are “prolific breeders” and the animals spread naturally through the state in the early 1990s. However, there is also indirect evidence that suggests hunters released hogs for sport and caused them to spread, the university said.

To deal with the invasive species, Arkansas has created a “feral hog eradication task force” to trap the hogs. It’s currently illegal in the state to transport and hunt feral hogs.

“The shooting of individual hogs also thwarts large-scale trapping efforts by agencies because increased disturbance makes it nearly impossible to catch the whole sounder, or family group, at once,” the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission states.

Arkansas isn’t the only state wrestling with the problem of rampant feral hogs, many of their southern neighbours including Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Missouri are also combating the issue.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, feral hogs have been reported in at least 35 states and the population is estimated at more than six million and “rapidly expanding.”

In June, the agency announced $75 million in funding for the eradication and control of the species in a new pilot program to address the threat the animals pose to agriculture, ecosystems, and human and animal health.

Feral swine