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Wild pigs now a nuisance in the Adirondacks

October 17, 2012 - Don Williams

The pigs have gone wild, and they have found the Adirondacks. When I was a farm boy growing up in the Adirondacks, I was the family “pig caretaker.” I fed the hogs, usually two or three, and cleaned the pig pen.

We depended upon them for food. Luckily, I loved, and still love, to eat pork, so you might say that my involvement was a “labor of love!”

It was not without its drawbacks, though — our pigs were never tame. When I went into the pen to shovel out the mess, I was often attacked by the pigs. I learned to keep the shovel between me and their snouts.

Apparently, my fears were not unfounded. An AP news story this past week reported on a missing farmer in his hog enclosure. He had been bitten on a previous occasion, and this time the pigs had knocked him over, killed and eaten him — a terrible tragedy. These domestic pigs can be bad enough; their wild, feral cousins are worse.

Feral swine, aka wild pigs, have become a nuisance in the Adirondacks and in 39 other states. As long as I can remember, there have been reports of wild pigs roaming the Adirondack woodlands, supposedly released by troublemakers. They usually roam at night and can easily destroy farmlands and woodlands. They have destroyed waterway banks and gardens. Their rooting and wallowing bring devastation wherever they roam. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has joined the New York state fight to control the feral pigs in the state.

Wild pigs can multiply like rabbits. They can breed before a year old and can have litters of more than six piglets. Adirondack winters can slow them down a little, but it is not helping that much. They eat anything, from growing plants to other animals. And they spread some 30 diseases.

Do not try to catch an Adirondack wild pig. They can run twice as fast as a man and, surprisingly, are good swimmers. They are aggressive and a danger to humans, pets and livestock. Their hearing and smell are well-developed. And, so far, their only enemy is a fast-moving car on the highway. (Where is the big bad wolf, huffing and puffing, when you need him?)

Feral pigs, as they multiply, can become a major threat to the Adirondack country as we know it.

The USDA reports wild pig problems in most of the southern part of the U.S. and that they are spreading rapidly to the other states. No state will be alone in solving the problem of wild pigs. The pigs are not native to the United States, and sightings should be reported by hunters and others who see them in the woods.

Some of the wild pigs look like wild boars, while others look identical to our domestic hogs. Unfortunately, the diseases they carry can spread to the domestic pigs and other farm animals, which may end up in the marketplace. It then becomes a major health problem and a danger to us all. It is not a situation to be taken lightly by saying, “what harm can a few pigs do in a 3-million acre forest preserve?”

The “game” is on, man versus wild pig, and who knows the outcome?

The Wildlife Society reports, “Free-roaming wild pigs have become one of North America’s most threatening invasive mammal species. Spreading fast, they now number up to six million across at least 39 U.S. states and four Canadian provinces, where they are destroying crops, ruining property, killing livestock, fouling waterways and spreading disease. Fat, mean and prolific, these pigs pose enormous challenges for wildlife professionals.”

In my estimation, it is not a battle to be lost; bringing wild pigs under control in the Adirondacks and other places calls for an immediate and all-out effort before it reaches major proportions. It is good to know that the USDA and our DEC are leading the fight.

 
 

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