DEAR READERS: In the past few days I’ve been inundated with emails asking for guidance on how to control wild pig incursions.
It appears that a drove of them have been tearing up yards in Concord and Clayton, and judging from some video taken by surveillance cameras, they are doing an excellent, but unwanted, job of rototilling.
The wild pig problem is an expensive and difficult one to control, and one that is entirely of our own making, aided by the ongoing drought.
Wild pigs are not native to California, or to North America if you want to get picky about it. The first pigs, which were domesticated, were brought to San Juan Bautista by Spanish missionaries in 1769.
Being short on supplies, the missionaries released the pigs to feed themselves on the abundance of foraging material. When they needed the pigs to slaughter, they would round them up, but the ones they couldn’t capture eventually became feral.
Complicating the issue was the introduction of Russian wild boars, imported to Monterey County in the 1920s for hunters. What we have rooting up our lawns and ripping out gardens are the progeny of those mission pigs and the Russian boars. Wild pigs now live in 56 of the state’s 58 counties.
There really are only three effective ways of dealing with them. One is to hunt them using whatever means are legal within city limits (most cities ban the use of firearms), trap them or install pig-proof fencing. As you might conclude, those first two options involve killing the pigs.
The pigs are considered a game animal in California, and a license and tag are required to hunt them. Property owners can also request depredation permits from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and many neighborhoods hire a hunter to deal with them.
Trapping is considered the most effective. You can use box traps that are armed with a trip wire that closes the door behind a pig, trapping it inside, or corral traps, which will nab a large group of pigs at once.
Whether you install fencing or go for lethal methods, the entire neighborhood needs to buy into it, otherwise the pigs will just go from property to property.
The droves of wild pigs are most likely a group led by a dominant female. The males tends to go out on their own. The group, called a sounder, will have several sows and their offspring.
During droughts, the pigs have smaller litters, and almost half the piglets will die in their first year. As food and water become harder to find, the pigs tend to expand their territories, and our irrigated landscapes, even with water rations, are too tempting for them to ignore.
None of the deterrents used successfully against other wildlife work for the ravenous wild pigs, who need to eat a lot to maintain life. Weighing up to 200 pounds, they also are not easily intimidated.
The good news is, once they’ve destroyed all the lawns, they’ll move on to a new neighborhood. Until they do that, I wouldn’t replace the torn up sod and gardens.
For more help, contact the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
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