This just in…
A little while back, feral hogs were in the news in New York. The swine have established breeding populations in several counties, and the State Department of Environmental Conservation is looking for ways to stop the spread before it becomes unstoppable. So far, those methods have included a trapping program and encouraging licensed hunters to shoot the hogs on sight.
But that may not be enough, according to some folks in the Empire State in a recent article.
The problem, they say, is that the eradication efforts aren’t looking at the source of the wild pigs. According to a recent article, fingers are being pointed at the operators of wild game hunting preserves.
Eurasian wild boars have become popular on private hunting ranches throughout the U.S. in recent years as an addition to deer and elk. Ranch owners deny they’re the source of the free-roaming pigs, but Patrick Rusz, director of wildlife programs for the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy, said the animals started showing up in the wild soon after hunting preserves began importing them. Their distribution is clustered near preserves, he added.
“We’re not talking about Porky Pig getting loose from the farm,” Rusz said. “These are Russian wild boars. Those animals are Houdini-like escape artists and they breed readily in the wild. We’ve had domestic pigs for centuries and never had a feral hog problem until the game ranches started bringing these in.”
Now I’ve had my say about the situation in Michigan, in which the state passed a ban on captive wild boar operations, and this situation doesn’t look much different. In fact, I find it interesting to note that the individual quoted in the article above is from the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy, one of the main forces behind the wild boar ban in that state.
As with Michigan, I don’t have a ton of background on the hogs in New York. The arguments presented by Rusz and some of the other ban proponents seem logical on their surface. But to me, it just doesn’t smell right. To me, it looks more like an effort to use the feral hog problem as leverage against these hunting ranches, which many people find objectionable. But I could absolutely be wrong.
Is a ban the right response? I’ve said before that I don’t think so. Even if the hog population is built on escaped wild boar, I think there are better ways to deal with it than an outright ban. In many states, the high-fence hunting operations are largely self-regulating when it comes to things like preventing escapes and managing disease. The idea has always been that they’d keep their animals in the fence, because letting them out represents a loss of that investment. Maybe that’s not good enough any more. I think it’s worthwhile to look at the regulations governing the high fence ranches, and find methods and incentives for the owners to keep better control of their herds… and provide accountability for escapes.
And then, take an even closer look at the more likely problem… “hunters” transporting wild hogs to their private properties without adequate containment.
The hogs are there now, and wiping them out may be a challenge. But before anyone goes throwing the baby out with the bathwater, it seems wise and fair to me to make sure that the baby is the problem in the first place.