The problems associated with wild pigs (Sus scrofa) are nothing new to the United States. But they are new to New York’s Champlain Valley.
Also called feral hogs, these extremely intelligent and expert survivors cost this country millions of dollars in damage each year. Their reproduction rate, which is faster than any other mammal of comparable size, coupled with their almost “sixth-sense” ability to elude hunters and avoid traps, makes them in many ways America’s most formidable invasive mammal. This perfect storm has created a real nightmare for land and resource managers, farmers, and others working to try to keep pig populations in check and the havoc they wreak to a minimum.
Until the summer of 2011, the “pig problem” was something the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program (APIPP), which works to protect the Adirondacks from the harmful impacts of invasive plants and critters, didn’t have to worry about. Troublesome news, however, about Russian boars gone wild in the Champlain Valley’s fertile agricultural lands set the alarm bells off and the APIPP team into action. By that point, the pigs—escapees from a local farm—were reportedly reproducing in the wild. APIPP has been working in collaboration with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) to try and capture the hogs before they reproduce any more and spread out across the landscape. Rulfs Orchard, one of the biggest apple producers in the Adirondacks, is being hit the hardest by these menacing swine. The farm’s manager, Linda Facteau, says Rulfs has already sustained in excess of $20,000 in crop damage.
Several baited trap stations have been established by the NYSDEC in the surrounding area but have had limited success. The lack of snow this winter has created a major hindrance to this effort as the hogs are readily able to find food on their own. So far, a total of 13 hogs have been eliminated from the population: four from vehicle collisions, six from hunting efforts, and three from trapping. In an effort to get a jump on the pigs without setting off their extremely sensitive senses of smell and natural wariness of humans, the APIPP is utilizing new trail camera technology to remotely monitor their activity at the trap stations. Since these cameras send images remotely to a web server, the number of human visits to re-bait the traps has been significantly reduced and the hogs have become bold enough to enter and exit the traps periodically. Once an entire family group of hogs consistently does this, the traps will be set, and APIPP, along with the NYSDEC and a host of local farmers, will hope for the best.March 07, 2012
Brendan Quirion is APIPP’s terrestrial invasive species project coordinator. APIPP is a partnership program of The Nature Conservancy’s Adirondack Chapter and several state agencies.