Aggressive pigs in the San Francisco Bay Area

MORAGA, Calif. – The residents of the San Francisco Bay Area have gone to great lengths to access the wealth of wildlife around them.

A sign at a playground in Moraga, a 35-minute drive from San Francisco, advises parents that rattlesnakes are “important members of the natural community” and to give snakes “respect.”

Across the Bay in the San Francisco suburb of Burlingame, an animal shelter rescued a family of skunks from a construction pit, a chameleon from power lines, and cared for 100 squirrels. children fall out of their nests after their trees are pruned.

Except sometimes ferocious wolfthe animals that roam the hills and gulls of the Bay Area – turkeys, mountain lions, deer, lynx, foxes and the remains of the real Noah’s Ark – find themselves a little venting. with people around.

Not so with aggressive feral pigs. They are tearing up lawns, ripping through golf course lanes, threatening drinking water and disturbing the harvest at Napa vineyards. Many Californians want them dead.

“They are pests of everyone and everything,” said Eric Sklar, a member of the California Fish and Game Commission who helped write a bill introduced last week in the state legislature. know. “They are very, very destructive.”

For decades, feral hogs, armed with knife-sharp tusks protruding from their hollow mouths, have ripped through fields of corn, peanuts, and cotton in large swaths of Texas and the South, to the detriment of livestock. The number that the US Department of Agriculture estimates is $2.5 billion. annual losses.

ONE military fighter aircraft was wrecked decades ago after a collision with two wild boars on a runway in Florida. Weighing hundreds of pounds, they can be extremely dangerous and in rare cases have attacked and killed humans.

Now, in what a federal official calls “Wild pig bomb,” The pigs are threatening the states to the north and west. Some progress has been made: New York, New Jersey and Maine have eliminated their feral pig populations, according to Michael Marlow, action program manager for the government’s National Feral Swine Damage Management Program federal. But at least 30 states still have wild boar populations, he said.

In California, 56 of the state’s 58 counties have wild boar. The herd of pigs is causing increased economic damage in Lafayette, a suburb in the East Bay where there appears to be the most serious invasion of the swine herd. Before the pandemic, the city had spent $110,000 as pigs, vandalizing shrubbery, rocked soccer and baseball fields like a revolving car. The Parks and Recreation Department installed fences around the fields and kept a contracted trapper to catch and kill pigs. Recently, neighbors woke up to find their lawns cluttered with piles of mud and dirt.

The head of the department, Jonathan “Ace” Katayanagi, said hikers have reported a few close encounters with wild boars, often when dogs without a leash are chasing them. He recommends that, if faced with angry pigs, people should stand on the roof of a car or climb a tree. “Pigs can’t climb,” he said.

Nearby, and potentially more seriously, hundreds of pigs have entered the creek beds to feed on the San Leandro Reservoir, which provides drinking water at certain times to Oakland, Piedmont, Alameda, Hayward, and other areas. other cities of the East Bay.

Pigs can harbor many diseases including E. coli, leptospirosis, giardia, toxoplasmosis and salmonella. Officials are concerned that the water supply may be contaminated.

Andrea Pook, a spokeswoman for the East Bay City Utilities District, which administers the water system, said its processes “filter and disinfect drop by drop.”

But not all pathogens can be removed during filtration, said Bert Mulchaey, the biologist who oversaw the work.

“We don’t allow people to have direct physical contact with the reservoir,” Mulchaey said. “We definitely don’t want pigs hanging around in there.”

The utility spends $50,000 a year trapping pigs killed with guns. But they keep coming and in larger numbers. On average, the district captures and kills 60 to 70 pigs per year. Last year, they culled a record 226 pigs, including 47, in the past two weeks.

In addition to potentially contaminating water supplies, the pigs, which are not native to North America, are robbing native wildlife for acorns and other staple crops.

The United States Department of Agriculture estimates there are six million feral pigs in the United States. They are often a cross between domestic pigs brought by European explorers five centuries ago, and Eurasian or Russian wild boar imported in the 1900s for sport hunting.

“This combination has made it a super aggressor,” said Mr. Marlow of the National Feral Pig Damage Management Program.

Aggressive, prolific, and highly adaptable, hybrid pigs, like their domesticated cousins, can weigh up to hundreds of pounds, including an 800-pound pig. “Hogzilla” was shot by a Georgia hunter in 2004.

California law introduced on January 19 by Bill Dodd, a state senator, would remove the requirement that hunters purchase a $25 “card,” the legal right to hunt a pig.

Mr Sklar, Fish and Game Commissioner said: “All year long you will be able to hunt as many pigs as you want. Some experts believe that this pig, intelligent and somewhat nomadic, will move to areas where hunting is not permitted.

In Lafayette, the job of culling pigs fell into the hands of Chris Davies, a licensed trapper with a skillful handshake and whose family had lived and hunted in the area since the 1880s. Davies’ father was Mr. a former hunting guide and tells the story of a fellow guide who was gored to death by a wild boar in the 1970s.

“They are super aggressive and quite mean,” Mr. Davies said of the pigs he traps. “I’ve never met someone who liked me.”

He came up with a corn-based bait, which he threw against a sturdy metal fence wall equipped with a camera, motion detector, and cellular connectivity. When the pigs entered the barn, almost always late at night, Mr. Davies was alerted by phone. He watched and closed the gates of the enclosure from a distance once the party, or the sound controller, was inside.

Then he and his wife, Annie, carried their two sleeping children into the back of their pickup. They drove through the dark suburban roads to the siege and shot the pigs. “They go down like a sack of potatoes,” he said.

Among animal rights and advocacy groups, Wayne Hsiung, co-founder of Direct Action Everywhere, a self-described ferocious nonviolence, said his group is “very opposed” to pig slaughter. , which he compared to killing dogs and cats.

But most representative of all is the nuanced view of Brendan Cummings, director of conservation at the Center for Biodiversity, an organization focused on protecting wildlife and endangered species.

“We are talking about individual living animals that we should treat as ethically as possible,” Mr. Cummings said. But at the same time, he is not opposed to culling or hunting pigs where they, as an invasive species, are damaging the environment.

The only time Mr. Cummings hunted was for wild boar, in part because the pigs killed off the purple amoeba, an endangered purple flower that grows in central California.

“I like a California where we don’t have wild boar,” he said, adding that bringing the jaguar back into California could help reduce the wild boar population.

In the Bay Area, where residents tend to show off mountain bikes worth thousands of dollars more than their latest shotguns, Mr. Davies, the pig traper, realized that some residents had quit the job. your.

Mr Davies said: “I guess a lot of people think, ‘That guy is a psycho, he likes to kill pigs’. “I don’t like killing them. But they We terrible animals. ”

Mr. Davies distributed the dead pigs to locals, who hewed them into pork chops and sausages.

Jenni Smith, assistant pasture manager at Moraga Horsemen’s Association, a local horse club, said she is grateful for the pigs that are trapped. In the past year, the pig has ripped through the horse parking lot.

“They are quite destructive,” she said.

But Mrs. Smith wasn’t so sure about eating culled pigs.

“Honestly,” she said, “if someone said to me, ‘Do you want to eat pork?’ How will I? No, I’ll go to Safeway, thanks. ” Aggressive pigs in the San Francisco Bay Area

Fry Electronics Team

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