Saturday, December 10, 2011

Wild Pigs

I've been thinking about wild things lately, in particular wild boar. This was prompted, in part, by a recent article in New Hampshire Fish and Game Department's Wildlife Journal.

Soon after I became the wildlife specialist at the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension in 1993, I visited several well-known large landowners. That was my job at the time, to educate and assist landowners in managing their land for wildlife. One of the first places was a 24,000-acre private hunting preserve in southwest New Hampshire known as Corbin Park. I was taken aback by this place for several reasons. First, I am not keen on private hunting preserves. Second, this preserve was open only to men, so I was told, and it cost a fortune to be a member. Corbin, the guy who founded the place in 1890, was a rich banker. If a member died, I was told that his wife would have to sell the membership. This was in 1994!

Corbin Park is surrounded by 20 miles of high fence, both to keep humans out and animals in. Exotic animals were imported to the Park and fed at various feeding stations, around which members could come with friends to shoot these animals. Perhaps there was some rule that the animals could not be shot when they are feeding, but I'm not sure if that was true. One of the imports was Eurasian wild boar. The 1938 hurricane blew down a lot of trees in the Northeast and apparently also knocked down a lot of the fence around Corbin Park. Picture Jurassic Park. The animals escaped. The fence went back up and things continued on as they were.

When I visited in the early 1990s I saw some of the fence. The fence naturally crossed all manner of terrain including small streams. A fence across a stream leaves an opening. Any self-respecting wild hog could get through such a hole. I was bewildered by the entire set-up. As I recall I was not particularly welcomed at Corbin Park. They were not much interested in my suggestions for managing native species and natural habitats, let alone for biological diversity. I never returned.

The title of the article in the Wildlife Journal is, Don't Let New Hampshire Go Hog Wild. Well, as the authors themselves write, it is too late for that. The wild pig is a hybrid animal, a result of cross-building of various strains of pigs including the original swine introduced by early European settlers and Eurasian wild boar introduced by hunting clubs. This wild hog is not native to North American. Now it is considered the most invasive and destructive large mammal on the continent, it is an ecological disaster, according to the Fish and Game article.

New Hampshire has a confirmed wild pig or feral swine population that is concentrated in Grafton, Sullivan, and Cheshire Counties. Ummm, that is where Corbin Park is located. I was surprised that the Wildlife Journal article did not call out Corbin Park for some (all?) culpability for the hog problem here. I assume that Corbin Park still has a large breeding population of wild boar along with other animals.Other strains of wild pigs are making their way year-by-year toward New England from southern states. Soon the southern feral pigs may meet the wild hogs of New Hampshire.

Wild pigs cause enormous damage and you can't shoo the hog back into a 24,000-acre park. Maybe the boar shouldn't be in the park to begin with. Reminds me of a classic case of private benefit at a public cost. You might say that those with access have gone hog wild.

4 comments:

  1. 1: Florida has a huge problem with wild hogs and in some areas the population has come down from heavy hunting pressure and at one point they were the top prey for Florida panthers when deer populations were down. Wild hogs are incredibly destructive.

    2: That said, I've often wondered at the fear of feral pigs that humans have, because as many times as we've been up close to groups of hogs we've never felt unsafe. On the AT while going through the Smokey's we kept hearing about scary feral pigs and just had to laugh because we'd been around so many groups of them while out hiking in rural areas.

    Unfortunately I don't think there is a simple solution unless there is an open season on them, and even then we saw lots of little babies with each small family...

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  2. Incredible! Thanks for posting this and thereby helping to make others aware of this issue.

    John

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  3. Hi Misti, As with many wild animals, they may seem tame, but a male with tusks may get ornery. I've read that hunting alone will not be able to control the population - they breed like rabbits. Unfortunately I think the damage is done.

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  4. Hi John - thanks for the note. Ellen

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