Wild boar and feral pigs trashing cities worldwide
Wild boar and feral pigs are expanding their numbers at unprecedented rates. In the process, more are moving closer to human activity centers. The most daring go even one step further and start living in parks, nature preserves, and open spaces in our cities.
The consensus of wildlife experts is that this out of control expansion of wild boar and feral pigs is caused by the absence of predators such as wolves, tigers, leopards, and the likes. Man is the only present danger to wild boar and feral pigs.
Wild boar, whether native to a region or invasive, are a destructive species despite their cute striped piglets and their intelligence. Boar and wild pigs are classified as one of the most intelligent animals ranking number four among all animals. They temporarily even outrank great apes, dolphins and whales, dogs, and under certain conditions, baby humans.
Our porcine neighbors have a lot going for them, don’t they? So why are so many parties, from government agencies to farmers and city residents, so opposed to them? The answer is money. Or more accurately, the monetary damages the boar and wild pigs are doing to agriculture, the infrastructure, the environment, and to other wildlife. Not to mention, of course, the potential health hazards that can come with the boar and hogs.
The outbreak of African Swine Fever in many boar populations in numerous parts of the world has prompted countries to build fences to keep the boar out or to institute massive programs to cull the burgeoning wild boar and feral pig populations. Years ago, the California Hunting Post reported on wildlife biologists and researchers who had established that to stabilize a boar population at its current size, at least 70 to over 80 percent of the entire population must be killed annually (no more boar on Santa Cruz). The remaining boar will hold their numbers steady and, given the slightest reprieve, very decisively and quickly, make up for the losses.
Especially when abundant food sources are available. Mild winters also help a lot. The survival rate of adults and especially piglets increases and boar numbers start rising rapidly.
Growing wild boar and feral pig populations mean increasing damage. Damage estimates vary wildly depending on what is included or defined as wild hog related damage and who is making the estimate. A widely accepted damage estimate states that wild boar in the United States cause 1.5 billion dollars damage annually. Their range expanded from 17 states in 1982 to 36 states in 2012. Florida, Texas, Georgia, Louisiana, and California have the largest populations of wild boar and wild pigs.
Though Florida and Georgia have near-perfect boar habitat, Texas is known as the state with the most prominent wild boar and feral pig populations. However, feral pigs are not spread widely over Texas. On the contrary, large areas of the state are actually devoid of feral pigs. The Texan hogs are found in huge numbers on private hunting ranches. These specialized ranches cater almost exclusively to hunters of boar and other exotics.
Why do feral pigs congregate and live in large numbers in areas where the hunting pressure is highest? The answer is a never-ending supply of food dispensed from auto-feeders or delivered by the hunters to the killing zones of the ranch.
Boar numbers on some Texan hunting ranches go into the hundreds. Without supplemental food provided by the ranch owners and their hunting guests, none of these ranches could support such excessive wild pig populations. The most infamous feral pig hunting ranch in Texas requires that their guest hunters not only pay a hunting fee but each bring 100 pounds of pig food as part of the admission requirement.
Baiting wild hogs to attract and to hold them on a boar hunting ranch is one of the strongest arguments used by anti-hunting forces. Shooting baited animals in a relatively confined area is akin to shooting fish in a barrel or to premeditated murder. In my opinion, this is a valid argument that plays right into the hands of those who want to abolish hunting in all forms.
California is home to a strong and healthy feral pig population. The boar are mostly found on private property though about 50 percent of the state is public land with unrestricted hunting access. Many of the public wildlife preserves and national parks have wild feral pigs. However, boar on public land are few and far between. They are also very mindful of hunters, transitory in most cases, and therefore hard to locate.
California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) does not allow baiting. The number of wild boar in the state and the expansion of feral pig populations, therefore, follow more natural cycles of expansion and contraction that are based on the availability of food sources, specifically the size and quality of the mast drop.
Growth rates of feral pigs in California may be more natural and somewhat slower, but boar populations in the state are nevertheless expanding. Today, wild boar and feral pigs are found in all counties. Wet winters, fire seasons, and loss of habitat to human activities have not stopped this inexorable expansion of wild boar and feral pigs.
Cities and urban centers become new habitats for boar and feral pigs
Just as wild boar and feral pigs, human populations are also increasing worldwide. More people need more space for their cities and urban activity centers. Their habitations and activities are encroaching more and deeper into native animal habitats displacing the original inhabitants. Where are the animals supposed to go? Some species become endangered while others turn the tables and move in with the humans.
Wildlife that used to run away and hide from man, now suddenly can be found living merrily right in the backyards and parks of our cities. Many Italian cities, like Rome and Genoa, have acquired birds of prey, deer, some wolves, foxes, and wild boar as new citizens. Wild boar are thriving on the shelter, security, warmth, and inexhaustible food our cities have to offer.
Other European cities undergo similar experiences. Berlin is internationally known as the boar capital of Germany with several thousand living within city limits. Despite thousand already killed, an estimated 3,000 boar still live within city limits.
Poland has an estimated 200,000 to 500,000 boar. Plans to cull a substantial number met with fierce resistance from the Polish people and, therefore, were abandoned by the government.
In Japan, an aging human population, the abandonment of farms and farmland, and the uninhabitable areas around Fukushima became a godsend to wild boar. They number boar killed by hunters in that areal alone rose from 3,000 in 2010 to an estimated 13,000 in 2012.
Pigs outnumber people in Denmark. Twelve million pigs versus 6 million Danes.
The city of Barcelona in Spain implemented a unique solution to the problem of boar in the city and the resulting conflicts. Besides special boar hunting training for police offers, wildlife control managers are riding with police at night to deal with the urban boar. They specialize in killing sows and their offspring but leave the males pretty much untouched. So far, the experiment has been successful.
Around the globe, Hong Kong is the poster city for wildlife moving in with people. This booming city expanded into prime animal habitats surrounding the city. Consequently, about 40 percent of the city is comprised of parks or wildlife reserves. Boar living there have become city dwellers often against their will. Nevertheless, they seem to feel right at home and established a presence in the financial district, the international airport, and in shopping malls. The California Hunting Post has some great videos of police versus Hong Kong and airport police action.
Of all the Asian countries and cities, China is the largest pork producer in the world. Over 1 million pigs were already killed after the swine flu virus-infected Chinese pigs. Many more millions of pigs will have to be culled to deal with this deadly swine virus.
The virus is spreading from the Chinese domestic pigs to wild boar and feral pigs in other parts of the world too. European countries are already forced to erect fences (no not Trumps fence complete with alligators and snakes) to keep wild boar out of the country.
But back to wild boar in cities. South Korea has a thriving wild boar population in the countryside, in cities, and even in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). A decade or so back, a 400-pound boar killed an old man and 20 goats on a small island.
Yet, that’s nothing compared to the number of boar descending on Islamabad in the winter. The hogs go there for shelter, warmth, and food in the form of the ever-present trash. Up to 60 percent of the stomach content of killed boar consisted of human trash. That contradicts the results of a German study of the diet of wild boar in Berlin. Biologists there found that the Berlin boar pretty much stuck to their customary diet. They consumed very little trash.
Trash is nutritious
Berlin may be the exception. Urban boar raiding trash cans and feeding on the treasures they find there are getting bigger and fatter. We can tell by the pictures of city-based monster boar. Wild boar and feral pigs grow normally to a weight of around 200 pounds for females and about twice as heavy for males. Monster males in their natural habitat may occasionally weigh in at around 400 to 500 pounds.
On the other hand, male urban boar can tip the scales at between 600 and over eight hundred pounds. Even heavier specimens have been photographed with record weights over 1,000 pounds.
Are they real, some skeptics ask? I do not know. Photoshop software is never far.
Wild boar and feral pigs trashing our cities are a testament to the adaptability, survival skills, and the resilience of wild animals. Let us give them a hand for their achievements.