Here’s something to root for in the dark of winter: New York State has the upper hoof in the war against Marauding Feral Death Pigs.
In a sty-opening lecture last week at the New York State Fairgrounds’ Farm Show, a federal expert on feral pigs painted a relatively rosy picture. Most likely the Empire State has just several hundred or so wild pigs scattered among four breeding colonies versus an estimated 5 million of the invasive beasts nationwide.
“We’ve got a chance,” said Justin Gansowski of the United States Department of Agriculture. “We’re actually in really good shape now.”
Of course, that’s exactly what the feral pigs want us to believe. Wild hogs — or Eurasian boars, as the strain here is called — are crazy smart. The batteries in their cell phones last five times longer than ours do, and they eat a well-balanced diet of, well, everything. If I were President of the feral pigs, holed up in some wallow in Texas or Oklahoma, the idea of a human plant in the federal government downplaying the alien swine presence in New York State would be music to my too-small ears. Even better if the spy’s name happened to be …. Gansowski.
For now, though, I’m willing to trust that this soft-spoken public servant truly is on our side. He certainly talked a good game, describing the pigs as destructive to watersheds, livestock and crops; capable of killing fawns and pets; able to root through even frozen ground; carriers of disease and parasites; hazardous to motorists; extremely difficult to catch and eradicate; and even adaptable to urban settings, particularly Houston, Texas where the lure of good barbecue and easy oil money has proven irresistible.
Those 30 or so people who attended the lecture (where were you, mainstream media?) also learned that these super pigs don’t even respect our Super Bowl. On Super Bowl Sunday a squirrel hunter in Louisiana was attacked and seriously injured by a feral pig. Closer to home, Gansowski showed a photo of erosion damage in Skaneateles caused by wild pigs.
“If we do nothing, within very little time feral pigs could cover every inch of the state,” he said, prompting me to almost lose control of my bowels.
Just so we’re clear, that reference to Skaneateles is not a misprint. One of the state’s breeding colonies is on the Onondaga/Cayuga County border. Thus Skaneateles, the crown jewel of the Finger Lakes, whose once-pristine waters are now choked by milfoil and crimson with the blood of swimmers sliced to ribbons by zebra mussels, must now confront the grim possibility of a lake fouled by wild-swine feces. Not to mention whole herds of ravenous pigs cutting in line at Doug’s Fish Fry, stealing inventory from the fur lady to build their disgusting nests and engaging in violent hooliganism at the most inappropriate times.
“Ladies and Gentleman, welcome to the 2014 Skaneateles Chamber Music Festival. Before we bask in this joyful performance of Strauss’ ‘Andante in C Major for Horn and Piano’, I’d like to take this opprtun ….whoa … hey, what the fu… PIGS!!! THE FERAL PIGS ARE BACK!!”
What can we do to stop these monsters?
It’s never a bad idea to deploy helicopters in any civic emergency, and that’s certainly true in this case. They’re being used to help wildlife agents spot the boars from the air. Also, starting September 2015 it will be illegal to possess or transport Eurasian boars in New York State. That should reduce organized hunting releases that result in pigs escaping into the wild. Ironically, year-round legalized boar hunting in states such as Tennessee has caused their populations to skyrocket. That’s the kind of “prey” we’re dealing with.
Even so, this is one of those times when we are incredibly lucky to have a thriving, highly educated firearms community in Upstate New York comprised of people who rarely shoot themselves or others by accident. Gansowski gave the green light for farmers and landowners to shoot individual boars, which can weigh up to 400 pounds, but he pleaded for restraint in shooting at larger groups because the surviving pigs will disperse into smaller groups and will then be even harder to capture. The last thing we need is to give these cunning, sex-crazed porkers a second chance to pork each other. Eurasian sows typically produce six piglets per litter, all of which usually survive because feral pigs have no natural enemies — and not many unnatural ones either. Because they are active mostly at night, the pigs are rarely seen by humans. In the unlikely event that you encounter a sounder of feral swine, Gansowski asks that you call 1-866-487-3297 and let the government handle it. Trust me on this: The government knows exactly what it’s doing.
Holy shoat! We’re all going to die.
Sorry about that. I panicked. But I’m fine now. We’ll all be fine as long as we stay vigilant. Look for rub marks on trees and nuzzle marks in the ground. Learn to recognize pig tracks and pig scat. Stay informed and stay positive. New York State may be a failure on multiple levels, but so far we’re kicking feral pork butt. This is no time to get sloppy.