Boar hunting in 2018 what hunters can expect
Feral pigs in shifting and expanding ranges are the short answer. Let’s see why boar hunting in 2018 will present ample opportunities for boar hunters to indulge in their passion despite the drought in California and global climate change.
Boar and wild pig populations are expanding all over the world regardless of rapid climate changes. And boar hunting is changing with this shift. In fact, one could argue that the seemingly unstoppable increase in the numbers of feral pigs and boar is caused by climate change. Why so?
Winters are warmer and summers hotter. Population losses and attrition diminish in warm winters. That means more piglets are surviving during mild winters. On the other hand, hot and dry summers kill off more boar, especially old and sickly individuals. How does this all affect boar hunting in 2018?
Under favorable conditions, gilts can have their first litter between six and nine months of age as long as they have reached also the minimum weight for reproduction of 95 pounds. Obviously, mild winters and an abundance of food from agricultural sources are creating favorable conditions for increased boar reproduction.
Boar on the move
With this in mind, the question now becomes whether higher survival rates in winter offset the increased mortality rates in hot and dry summers.
Feral Pig expansion 1992 to 2012 (yellow+1992); U.S. Department of Agriculture
Wildlife experts monitor boar populations to answer this question. Their findings and reports from all over the world show that boar everywhere are on the march. They are steadily expanding their range. These smart ungulates may abandon areas that have become too inhospitable and shift their home ranges to habitats that are better suited to wild boar.
As you can expect, wild boar hunting in 2018 follows the quarry.
This pattern is apparent in Europe, in Asian countries, and, how else could it be, also in the United States. In many European countries, the number of wild boar comes close or even surpasses the that of humans. In Denmark wild boar outnumber people by two to one according to Eurostat.
Nevertheless, humans in the traditional home ranges of boar outside of the United States tolerate expanding boar populations, often with amusement.
Wild boar sightings in Canada (Saskatchewan); CBCNews
Not so in this country where feral pigs are classified as an invasive species that needs to be eradicated.
Once that goal is achieved, so the widely accepted theory goes, nature and natural habitats will return to their original blissful state of harmony between animals, their habitats and humans.
Unfortunately, theory and practice are often at odds with each other. While it is possible to eradicate feral pigs from an island, doing so on a continuous landmass is an entirely different story.
Nature abhors a vacuum. Take out an entire wild pig population from a desirable habitat and other feral pigs from different parts of the country will happily filter in and take the place of the annihilated animals.
However, boar populations tend to stick to their native habitat even when the going gets tough. A good example for that is the native boar population in and around Berlin. During the Cold War, three small boar populations were stuck in small pockets in West Berlin. They essentially became urbanized boar. After the fall of the Berlin wall, boar from the east moved into the city and merged with the urban western boar.
Feral pig sounder Ohio (Department of Agriculture)
Today, wildlife experts estimate that up to 3,000 boar are now living permanently within the city limits of Berlin. No wonder, Berlin is often called the boar capital of the world.
These urban boar are extremely good at hiding during culls. They also lost their fear of humans and mingle freely with other park visitors even during daylight hours. Direct conflicts between the boars and humans are rare. They occur mainly when an animal is wounded, cornered or in defense of piglets.
Urban boar are no trash disposals
And here is another interesting observation related to boar in a new habitat: Wildlife experts who did extensive studies on the three original urban boar populations in Berlin dissected and examined the stomach contents of the urbanite ungulates. They found to their amazement that almost all boar had natural content in their stomach. They did not feed on garbage though plenty of it is easily available in parks.
However, suburban gardens are a different story. Much to the dismay of hobby gardeners, the boar are attracted to the gardens because of the soft soil and the fresh seeds and vegetables. Extensive rooting and digging can destroy the diligent efforts of a hobby gardener in one night.
In the eyes of wild boar urban life has yet another significant advantage. Boar hunting is not allowed within city limits. Only specially licensed municipal hunters can harvest a very limited number of boar in the city. The city boar need not fear hunting drives and culling.
It is a different story for the boar outside the city that live in large cornfields and huge agricultural complexes. Of course, boar hunting in 2018 is allowed there within strictly limited seasons and kill quotas. Yet, demands for culling urban boar are getting louder and stronger.
Experience and studies prove that boar hunting makes only a slight dent in the boar populations. However, in the long run, the boar produce enough offspring to replace losses from hunting. Worse yet, as losses from hunting increase, wild boar and feral pigs produce more litters per year with higher numbers of piglets per litter.
PRI, Public Radio International, quotes Katrin Koch of NABU, an environmental group:
“We won’t be able to impact them much with guns,” she said. “We’ll just have to learn to live with these animals.”
Outside of the idyllic urban life of boar, the battle against the ever-increasing wild pig populations intensifies. After all, the critters are very destructive. One sounder can rip apart in one night a freshly seeded cornfield, consume all corn seeds, and leave a moonscape of destruction behind.
No wonder boar hunting in 2018 goes high tech. Drones are deployed to assess the damage done by boar to large cornfields. Where permissible, they are also used to scout for boar.
Hunters, of course, use sophisticated equipment, such as night vision binoculars and scopes, special lights, and other fancy modern stuff to improve their chances of bagging a wild pig or sending one away for good. However, not all countries and wildlife authorities allow the use of high-tech equipment to control wild hogs.
Wild boar hunters in California can expect the feral pigs to leave exceedingly dry and parched habitats and follow the water and food. Generally speaking, this means moving northward to cooler and wetter regions of California. Southern California, south of Santa Barbara County, is even under normal conditions mostly a marginal boar habitat.
I expect the few wild pigs that live there to abandon their southern home range contrary to CDFW predictions of boar populations to expand deeper into the south. The eradication of feral pigs in the Cleveland Forest has stopped this movement.
The wild pigs will most likely concentrate even more in the coastal regions and the northern Central Valley. Naturally. This is a slow process. do not expect a sudden overnight shift to the cooler and wetter regions of California.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is of limited a help in predicting where the wild hogs will go. Population estimates are based on pig tags submitted by hunters. These data lag always at least two years behind.
And CDFW does not necessarily share population information and trends their game wardens have with ordinary hunters. I have asked almost two months ago for an update and any relevant information. As of today, CDFW has not responded. Nevertheless, the Department published an authoritative report on the status of feral pigs in California. As you can see, the majority of all wild pigs live in northern regions of California, especially in coastal areas.
They will expand their territories from there sticking closely to the established patterns.
Wild Pigs Range 2016 and expected range extension (CDFW)
So, when looking for feral pigs that disappeared from your old hunting grounds, you are very much on your own. But don’t despair, look for areas that have the three essential boar need (water, shelter, food) in cooler regions of California. With enough patience, you will find the boar.
Because this is a slow and painstaking process, hunters should not have much trouble to keep up with them.